Saifuddin Soz

Saifuddin Soz

SAIF-U-DIN-SOZ-(2) Much to the chagrin of Taj Mohi-ud-Din, Saifuddin Soz secured second successive term as the JKPCC president on Thursday. Taj had recently made his desire known for the ‘top congress slot’ in the state, when he refuted allegations leveled against him by party colleague Sham Lal Shama.

Taj’s successor in the PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Sharma told the Legislative Council earlier that there were some gross irregularities in the department.

“This is part of campaign to hamper my race towards becoming state president of PCC,” retorted Taj.

Now back to saddle for the second time, Soz, the erstwhile teacher is a long-time member of the Parliament of India. He had been India’s minister of water resources in India’s 14th Lok Sabha, and minister of environment and forests in the 1990s.

In January 2006, Soz was nominated to the Congress Working Committee, the executive committee of the Indian National Congress.

Soz was born on November 23, 1937 in Sopore. He did his Master’s degree in Economics from University of Kashmir.

Before joining politics he taught in many colleges affiliated with the University of Kashmir and was its registrar for a brief time. From there, Soz moved to the Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education (BOSE). Soz sought voluntary retirement from government service to enter politics in 1983. At that time, he was Secretary of the BOSE.

In 1983 Lok Sabha election, Soz contested and won the Baramulla seat as a candidate of the ruling party, National Conference (NC). At that time, NC was headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah. Soz went on to win three more Lok Sabha elections as a member of the NC. He also represented the NC, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha in the mid-’90s.

In 1997-98, he became India’s minister of Environment and Forests in the cabinet of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. During 1998-99, Soz served in the same capacity under Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. At the time, NC was part of the United Front government ruling India. In 1999, Soz was expelled from the NC for voting against the government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, a veteran leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In 2003, Soz joined the Congress party, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004. In January 2006, he was inducted into the ministry of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as minister of water resources, a position he held until early 2009. Soz was appointed President of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh (state) Congress Committee in February 2008. He was also one of the front runners for the post of Vice-President of India in 2007 and 2012.

A US diplomatic cable leaked by the whistle blowing website Wikileaks claimed that Saifuddin Soz was facilitating a discreet dialogue between Indian government, and separatist leaders before 2006. The cable sent by then US Ambassador to India David Mulford to State Department in US, describes Soz as a long standing ‘contact’ of the (US) Embassy’s political section.

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