The gloves come off in Kashmir Congress infighting
By Tabish Naseer - SRINAGAR
Published: 22nd Jul 2012 12:09:06 PM
The bickering between the various factions of the state unit of the Congress party in Jammu and Kashmir is no secret, but the sanction to prosecute a former minister by the government this week on allegations of defaming his party colleague may have far reaching consequences.
The war of words between the two Congressmen—one belonging to Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s lobby and the other who is seen close to the ruling National Conference had escalated in January this year.
Senior leader Abdul Gani Vakil—a close aide of Azad—shot a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi accusing senior Cabinet minister in the government Taj Mohi-Ud-Din of widespread corruption under ministries held by him.
The letter which was leaked to the media demanded an “in-depth inquiry into the milk factory which is allegedly built on state land and a posh bungalow at village Chak Lalushah and also digging of eight tube wells by government agencies in the same land due to Taj’s influence.”
“You had chosen to maintain a criminal silence which speaks of your irresponsive attitude and lack of will to fight corrupt practices rampant in your department,” wrote Vakil in the letter to Taj.
In February, this year, Taj met the chief minister and sought initiation of legal action against Vakil for leveling “baseless” charges against him. Sources say “Taj sought prosecution under section 198-B of criminal procedure code (prosecution for defamation against public servant in respect of their conduct in the discharge of public functions) and section 500 and 501 (a) of Ranbir Penal Code.
“I approached the chief minister’s office in February to take action in the wake of false allegations by Vakil. It’s after six months of investigations that all the allegations were found baseless,” Taj said.
The government on Thursday accorded sanction for prosecution of Vakil. “After having been satisfied with the material available with me, I hereby accord sanction for prosecution for making false, malicious and defamatory allegations against Taj,” the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department said in the order.
This is first time ever in Jammu and Kashmir that any minister has invoked clauses of Section 198-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides Protection to President and ministers in case of false allegations of corruption, against his own colleague.
Sources say Taj, who is considered very close to the National Conference, used the government machinery effectively against Vakil to kill two birds with a single stone.
The state Congress which is divided into three lobbies—one of them headed by Taj— has been publicly attacking each other. “This move will give Taj an upper hand considering he is always thought to be number three in terms of lobbies,” says a party insider. He has done nothing wrong as he has played by the rules, that is enough for him to corner Vakil or keep state chief Soz at bay, he adds.
Congress leaders have been enjoying power since 2002. Earlier the party forged an alliance with Peoples Democratic Party, while in 2008 they joined hands with NC. “It looks like that Congress leaders have taken power for granted as they know it very well that Valley-based parties would always depend on them to form the government and they will always remain a part of the ruling coalition,” says a political analyst.
He says the recent incident will further divide the party in the state, adding, Vakil will not stop as he is backed by Azad.
The analyst points out that a day after government gave sanction to prosecute him, Vakil wrote a letter to Sonia accusing Taj of “violating party’s constitution” by recommending action against him.
“I have written a letter to Soniaji about the recent developments and have demanded stern disciplinary action against Taj for violating the constitution of the party as well as damaging the image of party,” Vakil told the press on Friday.
“The High Command had already taken notice of the development (allegations and counter allegations) in the past and had sought explanation from me and Taj on February 17. Without waiting for the decision of the high command, he violated the constitution of the party by asking the coalition government to act against me. I will take further course of action after the Party high command takes a decision in the matter,” he added.
Vakil said: “I am ready to face the court and will submit whatever documents I have related to the case.”
Lashing out at the government for sanctioning his prosecution, Vakil termed the action against him as a political vendetta to appease Taj and to cover up his misdeeds as reported by various newspapers in the past. “While there is no evidence against me, the government is sleeping over various cases in which the State Vigilance Organization has sought sanction for prosecution of tainted bureaucrats who are allegedly involved in various scams, illegal appointments and irregularities in various departments, land grabbing by a nexus of politicians and land mafia,” he claimed. “I appeal the chief minister to immediately accord sanction against all those whose files are pending for sanctions over the years,” he said.