Soz, Vakil emerge front runners for JKPCC presidentship

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New Delhi, Jan 24 (UNI) Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and senior Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) Vice President Abdul Ghani Vakil have emerged front runners for the top party post in the troubled state.

Sources in the Congress said the party high command has finally decided to accept the resignation of JKPCC President Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed from the post.

He has already quit the Congress-led coalition government in the state following allegations of corruption.

The sources said the Congress High Command has decided to replace ''tainted'' Sayeed with somebody with a ''clean image'' in view of the crucial Assembly elections in the state this year.

They said the Congress was unlikely to risk its image in the poll year by having a person with a ''sullied'' image at the helm of affairs.

Sayeed, a former Education and Haj and Auqaf Minister, resigned from the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet and the party post on January 17 following allegations of bribery levelled against him by a legislator.

Independent legislator Shoaib Lone had alleged in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on January 11 that Mr Sayeed demanded and took from him Rs 40,000 for giving permission to his sister to open an elementary teacher training institute in the Valley.

Media reports emanating from Kashmir had earlier suggested that the Congress High Command was not in favour of replacing Sayeed at least for the time being.

Irrespective of allegations against Sayeed, the sources said the Congress High Command had already decided to replace him with a more ''dynamic person'' who would be able to infuse fresh life into the state unit, particularly in the Valley.

While Mr Vakil is seen to be a staunch loyalist and a close confidante of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the scales are heavily tilted in favour of Prof Soz who has emerged as the unanimous choice of some top central Congress leaders, they added.

The sources said these central Congress leaders are known critics of Mr Azad and want to check his unchallenged clout.

They said Prof Soz shared very good and cordial relations with the top brass of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a key ruling coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the sources said Prof Soz was also reluctant to go back to Jammu and Kashmir to head the state Congress with barely a few months remaining for the crucial Assembly elections in the state.

They said Prof Soz is quite comtent with his present status and would like to continue on the post for some more time.

The sources further said Mr Azad was not in favour of holding the posts of both Chief Minister and the JKPCC president simultaneously and wanted one of his ''loyalists'' to occupy the post.

Some media reports had suggested that Mr Azad was quite keen to assume the presidentship of the JKPCC as well.

They said the Congress High Command was left with hardly few choices for the top party post in the state. Senior party leader from Jammu and Kashmir Mohammad Shafi Qureshi has already been appointed as the head of the National Commission for Minorities.

Another party veteran, Ghulam Rasool Kar, does not have age on his side and as such could not be considered for the post, the sources said.

UNI AG MIR RS1346

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