Congress man Ghulam Nabi Azad was first CM from Jammu region

Congress politician Ghulam Nabi Azad
Congress politician Ghulam Nabi Azad

Ghulam Nabi Azad at one time represented Bhaderwah Legislative Assembly constituency in Doda district of in the Jammu region when he held the post of Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir from November 2005 to July 7 2008. He was the first CM of the state who hailed from Jammu region. The Congress at that time had to go for a CM from Jammu as it had maximum number of seats from Jammu only.

In October 2002, Congress had won 20 of the 87 seats in J & K assembly. It had representation in Jammu as also the Kashmir region. In contrast, the PDP had only 16 MLAs, all from the Kashmir valley, and was a far less representative party of the entire state than the Congress.

From 1947 to November 2005, all PMs and CMs of the state had been from Kashmir region. Earlier than that, it was a CM of the Congress from Kashmir who had to abdicate in favour of Sheikh Abdullah. It goes to the credit of the Congress that it made someone from outside Kashmir as the CM for the first time. It can sure be debatable as to how much Kashmiri, or a non-Kashmiri Azad was. Or is. Is he a Bhaderwahi, and hence from the Jammu region? Is Ghulam Nabi Azad a Kashmiri since he is married to a Kashmiri?

It helps him that he speaks fluent Kashmiri and has a very cosmopolitan image. His credentials are such that they transcend regions of the state. He is accepted at once as a Jammuite, a Kashmiri and as an Indian. None of the three descriptions are in conflict with one another.

Well, there is a clamour for a CM from Jammu yet again at this juncture. Mostly from those supporting the BJP. The party had 25 MLAs, all from the Jammu region in the last assembly. Of them, 24 were Hindus and only one, Abdul Gani Kohli, was a Muslim who had won from Kalakote constituency of the Rajouri district.

If the BJP forms a government in the state in future, its CM will most likely be a Hindu from the Jammu region. Constitutionally, and legally, there is no bar on a Hindu becoming a CM of the state.

For all the years when a democratic government has ruled the state, it has been someone from the Kashmir Valley who have led it, except for a period of less than three years when it was ruled by Azad, who is from the Jammu region. In fact, from 1947 to 2019, it was only from November 2005 to July 2008 did the state have anyone from Jammu leading it.

The excitement about a CM from Jammu in the coming days is slightly misplaced or an overheated sentiment. It glosses over the fact that the honour of giving first CM from Jammu already belongs to the Congress.
If the BJP is able to lead a government in J&K some time in future, after the next assembly elections, whether alone or whether in a coalition arrangement, it will most likely be someone from Jammu and a Hindu. The chances of some Kashmiri Pandit becoming the CM in such an arrangement seem bleak at this juncture.

Those who represent the community in the Legislature are MLCs, and not directly elected MLAs. There are two MLCs from the KP (Kashmiri Pandit) community in the BJP and they became legislators because of support from the 25 MLAs of the Jammu region. Of course, legally there is nothing that bars a member of the Legislative Council from becoming CM. That way, there is no legal impediment.

For now, talks about possible fresh delimitation of assembly constituencies excites people in Jammu. It is slightly premature to discuss the final arrangements as most of them presume that the number of seats in Jammu can only go up.

This reasoning is based on a host of factors, and many of them are logical. The perception being sought to be created is that the Kashmir region has an undue advantage in terms of numbers. Also a hope is inherent in this talk that this imbalance will be corrected, by increasing the number of seats in the Jammu region.

Is it possible that someone who defeated Azad in 2014 emerges as a dark horse for the CM’s post tomorrow? Some day in the future.

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