NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad's resignation from primary membership of the Congress after serving the party for 52 years has added an important third dimension to the forthcoming assembly elections in J&K.
While the election commission has already set the electoral ball rolling in the Union Territory by revision of electoral rolls and their final publication before December, sources have denied the possibility of these being held in 2022.
Same sources told IANS that the assembly elections in J&K are likely to be held in the spring of 2023.
Azad's parting ways with the Congress and his decision to form a new political party has added an important third dimension to these forthcoming elections.
His resignation has generated a storm of sorts in the JKPCC. Eight senior leaders of the party have already resigned and more are likely to do so in support of Azad. These leaders will join the party that he will announce shortly.
Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Azad said that although he was in no hurry to announce the formation of the new party, yet he will soon be announcing the same since assembly elections are round the corner in J&K.
The day Azad resigned from the Congress, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah chaired a meeting of the BJP leaders from the Union Territory. The BJP has said that the meeting was pre-scheduled and it had nothing to do with Azad's resignation.
Despite the denial, those who attended the meeting said that assembly elections and strengthening the party in J&K was the main agenda. Same sources said that Shah laid stress on the fact that the BJP should Pro-actively work to strengthen the party in Kashmir as well.
Now that Azad's participation in the assembly elections is a foregone conclusion, he could well hold the key to power in the union territory given his personal influence and image here.
As the Chief Minister of the state from 2005 to 2008, Azad held a very clean and positive image. He pushed the developmental agenda and also created new administrative districts in J&K during that period.
He had to resign following the withdrawal of support by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) coalition partner in Azad headed government.
Many of his staunch supporters in the Congress are likely to be fielded by him in the Valley during the elections. Four senior party leaders and former MLAs are among those who resigned from the party to support Azad.
He would, therefore, have influential candidates to field both in the Valley and the Jammu division.
His presence in the electoral arena of Kashmir is not likely to create much difference because the National Conference (NC) and the PDP are better placed here than Azad's likely new party.
In the Jammu division, Azad is most likely to upset the political applecart of the NC, PDP and the Congress.
His image in the Muslim dominated constituencies in Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban and other districts is far better than his rivals.
In the Hindu majority constituencies of the Jammu division as well, Azad is seen as a tall secular and nationalist leader who has done much for the welfare of the common man.
Out of the 43 assembly seats in the Jammu division, he has a scale tilting presence in nearly 17 seats.
If he were to win a good number among these seats, given the likely fractured mandate the forthcoming assembly elections are likely to throw up, Azad could well be not only the kingmaker, but the king himself.
Would the BJP support Azad as the chief ministerial candidate? Since politics is the art of the possible, his supporters are already seeing their leader wearing the crown.