Jammu: Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad says there should’ve been an effort to “Congress Jodo” before the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi. “If your own house is not in order, how can you muster support from people who are not with you? First you should be united,” he said in an interview with ThePrint.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is being seen as a revival of the Congress, Azad says that one cannot say this until the states Rahul Gandhi visited goes to elections. “Only electoral results can determine whether it’s been a revival,” he said.
But the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir claimed that there is infighting going on in the Congress in all the states. Citing examples of Rajasthan and Kerala, he said that the infighting prevails regardless of whether the party is in power.
He resigned from the Congress earlier this year. In his resignation letter he slammed the then party president Rahul Gandhi, said “inexperienced sycophants” ran the party and that it had reached a “point of no return”.
In September, less than a month after the resignation, he announced the formation of a new party, Democratic Azad Party. He vehemently opposed the idea that his party is associated with the BJP and talked of his support for Article 370.
‘Independent person, nobody’s B-team’
When asked about a possible alliance with the BJP in the future, Azad said, “There is no question of being associated with the BJP. There is no question of having any track with the BJP”.
“I’m an independent person,” he said, hitting back at the accusations that he is “BJP’s B-Team”.
Azad said that state parties who are accusing him of aligning with the BJP are those who themselves have been “directly or indirectly associated with BJP”. He claimed that they are engaging in this mudslinging because they see him as a threat.
He also criticised those who focused on Modi’s emotional farewell to him in Rajya Sabha when he retired as the Leader of Opposition, saying that those who highlight that have “other interests”.
“Why are they highlighting only what the Prime Minister spoke about me, there were 24 parties who have spoken for me. They spoke in much stronger terms about me. Does that mean that I’m joining them,” he asked.
Article 370 ‘not bad’
The Jammu and Kashmir leader is of the opinion that Article 370 was “not bad”. Article 370 gave special status to the state, including having its own constitution. It was abrogated on 5 August 2019.
“Article 370 is very important and I am of the opinion that it was not bad. How can anything that has been part of the Indian constitution for 70 years be bad,” he asked, adding that it was never against Indian interest.
Azad said it is possible for it to be reinstated and presented two possible ways through which it can be achieved, “One is a parliamentary majority and the other is the Supreme Court taking a favourable decision.”
The future of his party and state
Two months into his new role as president of the Democratic Azad Party, he said that the response from across the spectrum has been heartening. “The going is very good, across the state, across the regions and across sub-regions.”
He said that people support him because he has been steadfast in his beliefs throughout his political career. “All through my life I have never believed in communalism or regionalism or casteism.”
His vision for the party is inextricably tied to his image as a “doer”.
“I have been a 24×7 chief minister and union minister, who would work in triple shifts and make officers also work in triple shifts. If given a chance, there will be a revival of double shifts,” he said.
Azad is making a strong push for election in Jammu & Kashmir. The state has not had an elected government for the past four years. Azad says that it is ”high time” to bring in elected representatives.
“Bureaucracy cannot run the government for years together. This is not their job,” he said.
“We have already waited for almost five years, elections should have happened within six months of the dissolution of the assembly in 2018. People from across the state are suffering,” said Azad.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)