Over 30 DAP founding members to join Cong today as Azad meets EC for party registration

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 11:45 am

Over 30 DAP founding members to join Cong today as Azad meets EC for party registration

In a major blow to Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Azad Party (DAP), its general secretary Nizam-ud-Din Khatana and over three dozen of its founding members are joining the Congress here on Tuesday.Significantly, the latest defections from the DAP have come at a time when Azad is likely to meet the Election Commission in connection with the registration of his new party.A senior DAP leader confirmed that Azad has been called by the Election Commission for a meeting on Tuesday. “At present, we call our party Democratic Azad Party but it depends on what name the Election Commission allows us tomorrow,’’ he said.Hailing from Kashmir’s Kokernag area, Nizam-ud-Din Khatana, a two-time MLC (from National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party), had quit the PDP to join Azad’s party in September last year. His son, Chowdhary Gulzar Khatana, who was vice-chairperson of Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board with the status of minister of state during the PDP-BJP coalition government, is also quitting DAP and joining the Congress.A senior DAP leader said both Nizam-ud-Din and his son had left the party and joined the Congress earlier this month when former deputy chief minister Tara Chand and former minister Peerzada Sayeed returned to their previous party. Nizam-ud-Din, who has been a loyalist of Sayeed, is unwell and not active in politics, he added.The defections threaten to destabilise the DAP, which is yet to overcome the damage caused to it by the expulsions of three senior leaders — former deputy chief minister Tara Chand, former minister Dr Manohal Lal Sharma and former MLA Balwan Singh — in December last year and the subsequent resignations by nearly 126 of their supporters, including many founding party members.One of the founding DAP leaders, who recently returned to the Congress, told The Indian Express that at the time of preparing documents for getting EC registration, they were told to have at least 100 founding members. “Accordingly, we made 50 founding members each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions,’’ he said, adding that while a number of them have already left DAP following the expulsion of three senior leaders, several more are quitting on Tuesday.Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Tomorrow, more leaders from DAP-Disappearing Azad Party will end their leave of absence and return to where they belong. Expect news from Jammu, which is all set to welcome the Bharat Jodo Yatra on January 19.’’DAP general secretary and former minister R S Chib, however, denied it, saying the party has more than 500 founding members. He said they had sent a list of more than 800 founding members to the Election Commission, along with their application for registration, and of them, nearly 300 were rejected on account of deficiencies in their documents. All the founding party members are not senior leaders, he added.The DAP, meanwhile, seems to have started damage-control exercise. After senior DAP leaders, including G M Saroori and Jugal Sharma, party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad had an over four-hour long meeting with Dr Sharma at his residence in Jammu last week to persuade him return to the party. The latter sought time to consult his supporters before taking a decision, sources said.A senior DAP leader said he is most likely to return to Azad’s party and for this, he has already fixed a public meeting at Billawar on January 18.The buzz created by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, whose last leg through Jammu and Kashmir is about to begin, has ensured an impressive reception for the march. Chairman of Dogra Swabhiman Sanghthan and former minister Choudhary Lal Singh, who has been three-time MLA from Basohli and two time MP from Udhampur constituency, has already extended his support to the yatra amid speculation that he is returning to the Congress.Before forming his own party, Singh was a BJP MLA from Basholi and a minister in PDP-BJP led coalition government in J&K. He had joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections after quitting Congress.

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