What’s wrong with Congress that it can’t even recognise the tallest Dogra leader?

19th July 2021

19th July 2021

Dogra chowk in late leader's memory

Nidhi Sharma flew in from Mumbai to be here on Saturday, the day of her father Girdhari Lal Dogra’s 106th birth anniversary. For the uninitiated, the late Dogra was Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for 26 years, a legislator six times and served as Member of Parliament (MP) twice. He was born in Kathua on July 17, 1915, and is undoubtedly one of the tallest leaders in J&K.

(Even prime minister Narendra Modi—see image—has been a great admirer of the late Dogra leader as his views reflect here). 

A large number of people, including relatives and family friends paid floral homage at the statue of the late leader at his statue what is now known as Dogra Chowk after the late leader. The statue was set up here almost two decades ago when Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) was the Chief Minister. The man behind the process of setting up the statue was late BJP leader Arun Jaitley, a son in law of the late Dogra Saheb.

Paying floral tributes to her father, Nidhi Sharma described Pandit Girdhari Lal Dogra as leader of the masses, saying his political acumen and down to earth approach will continue to inspire generations. She must have noted the conspicuous absence of any Congress leader from the function, a party which is headed by G A Mir from Doru (Anantnag). This raises one question: Is it even realistic to expect a Kashmiri leader, which Mir is, to recognise the services of a veteran Dogra leader, what if the tallest?

What about leaders of the Congress from the Jammu region, namely Tara Chand, Raman Bhalla, Yogesh Sawhney, Manohar Lal Sharma, Ravindra Sharma and others? These leaders never tire of claiming to speak for the aspirations of the Jammu region but did all of them forgot about late Dogra’s birth anniversary? A good number of Congress supporters in Kathua, Jammu and Udhampur are still second or third generations of people with whom late Dogra had forged a relationship.

In sharp contrast, provincial president of the NC Devender Singh Rana was present along with Nidhi and other family members of at the Dogra Chowk. In his speech, Rana described the late leader him as a ``politician par excellence, saying Dogra Sahib will always be remembered for his qualities of head and heart’’. In fact, even the press release regarding the commemorative function was issued from the NC office, but from a different email address than used daily to send press releases.

The absence of the Congress from the Jammu region, and its receding footprint is perhaps best indicated by this forgetfulness, deliberate, or feigned. Either way, it also indicates why it may lose further ground to NC, the BJP which is doing well in the Jammu region. Incidentally, in 2002, the Congress had won 15 assembly seats from the Jammu region and only five from Kashmir. Later also, the party scored better in 2008 and 2014 assembly elections.

Despite that, the Congress, it seems, has also become another Kashmir-centric party, like the NC and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), something that bodes ill for it politically in the coming days. It is so disorganised that there are hardly any statements from the party to the media these days. Be it Bhalla, or Sawhney, or someone else, each leader sends press releases in individual capacities to media houses. When was the last press release issued by the Jammu unit of the Congress unit? May be party spokesman Ravindra Sharma can tell us.

Among others who paid tributes to Pandit Girdhari Lal Dogra included Om Parkash Dogra, Manish Dogra, Surinder Dogra, Rattan Dogra, Rohit Dogra, Dharamveer Singh Jamwal, Suresh Sharma and others.

Sant Kumar Sharma, a seasoned journalist, is an authority on Jammu and Kashmir. Two of his books on Article 370 and Delimitation are already out. The third one on Indus Waters Treaty is now out and could be bought here.

Sant began as a teacher but after six years, joined the Indian Express, Chandigarh in 1990, the year when terrorism was taking its first step in J & K and soon there would be exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He subsequently worked for The Statesman, The Times of India and Star News among others. He is based in Jammu since May 2000.

He edits a newspaper, epaper.earthnews.in, in Jammu presently.



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