MOHAMMAD SHARIEF Niaz, rated high in the realm of politics, was the only torch bearer to provide solace to the people during the turmoils in Bhalessa. Niaz was born on April 24, 1944, in the village of Changa, Bhalessa, and is a law graduate. Being a legal luminary, he was entrusted the responsibility of being the Law Minister of the state in 1989.
Having many outstanding achievements in the democratic arena, Niaz joined the student unions, trade unions, and teachers’ unions. He joined the Congress party in 1976, worked as a trade union leader, and pleaded the cause of the working class. He was nominated District President of the Congress Committee, Doda, in 1979. He unsuccessfully contested the 1983 assembly elections on a Congress ticket from Inderwal constituency, but was finally elected in 1987. From 1992 to 1996, he remained a member of USERS consultative committee in the Northern Railway, and was elected to the assembly in 2002. He polled 16,962 votes and defeated his nearest NC rival, Mohammed Aslam, by a margin of 6,827 votes. He was inducted as Minister for Power in Mufti-led Congress-PDP coalition.In 2007, Niaz was elected as a Member of Legislative Council (MLC) for Doda, replacing Mohammad Iqbal Bhat.
It is interesting to note that in the aftermath of the Jammu agitation, while the assembly constituency like Bhaderwah witnessed sharp polarisation, here the impact was not so deep for Niaz, as he was the only competent candidate for the Congress high command.
Lo and behold, Niaz reportedly broke down at the declaration of the result, when he was contesting from Bhaderwah in the 2009 by-elections, as he himself was not expecting to win. Niaz defeated Mr. Dalip Singh of BJP by a margin of 2,747. While Mr. Niaz polled 21,966 votes, Mr. Singh polled 19,219 votes, out of a total of 53,219 votes.
Regarding the Kashmir conflict, he is the think tank for the Indo-Pak process viz-á-viz good governance in the state. He advocated that Pakistan should take the necessary measures to control the militant organisations operating from its soil and indulging in bloodshed in Jammu andKashmir.
During his tenure as a cabinet minister, he ordered a probe into the reasons for the collapse of the Diversion Tunnel at the 450-MW Baglihar hydroelectric project in Kashmir.
Niaz was not only pitched against strong candidates of other parties, but also his own party leaders, workers, and a number of close relatives, worked against him. The youth and disadvantaged played a pro-active role to ensure his victory.
Niaz saw a bitter contest with the BJP’s roping in of Ghulam Ali, brother of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who campaigned as the BJP candidate. Ghulam Ali raised a storm by supporting the Babri Masjid demolition in his speeches.
The local people opine that Ali won the election keeping in view the contribution of Niaz during the tumultuous days of turmoil.