The Indira-era congressman’s parliament finale made Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send him off with a tearful farewell.
By Gowher Hamid
Srinagar: The bonhomie resurfaced on the day when the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad hanged his parliament boots along with the other Kashmiri lawmakers.
Even as the send-off created a void of J&K representation in the upper house, first time after 1994, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s farewell speech for his “mitr” Azad which stole the limelight.
Recalling his long association with the outgoing leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Modi said it won’t be easy for anyone to step in Azad’s boots. The speech saw the premier breaking down for his friend who in 2007 first informed him about the death of Gujarati tourists killed in a grenade attack in Kashmir.
Amid these accolades and tributes, Azad sat silent, concealed his emotions behind a mask and intermittently responded to the resounding remarks and accolades with folded hands.
“But barely 8 years ago when Modi addressed his Lalkar rally in Jammu and created cleavage in Jammu region as a PM-elect, there was only Azad who could manage consolidating the Muslim vote of the region and get a good share of Hindu votes for his sway on the both the communities,” said Sultan Mohammad, a senior congress political worker. “Today’s friends were yesteryear’s nemesis fighting a turf war in J&K.”
By terming himself a “proud Indian Muslim”, Azad recalled his association with Indira and her son Sanjay Gandhi in his farewell address in Rajya Sabha.
As a young and ambitious political activist, Azad made his formal political debut after the 21-month long Emergency imposed by his “madam” ended in 1977. He suffered an early loss from Inderwal state assembly seat.
That primary defeat removed him from the political scene of J&K where his senior Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was then holding the congress fort and proving the only opposition to the National Conference.
Outside the state, his political career was mainly determined by his Rajya Sabha stints and his twin wins—1980 and 1985—from Maharashtra’s Washim constituency.
In 1990, Azad was elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. The National Conference nominated him to the upper house in 1996. He eventually played a big role in floating the PDP-Congress alliance in 2002.
In 2005, he was elected as the Chief Minister of J&K and months later registered the first assembly election win from J&K with a massive victory from his home-turf, Bhaderwah.
“After I became chief minister, I held the first public meeting in [Syed Ali] Geelani’s bastion, Sopore,” Azad said in his farewell speech. “It was the message that none could be discriminated against during my rule.”
After three years, Azad saw his coalition government collapsing under the weight of 2008 summer agitation. A year later, Azad was reelected to Rajya Sabha.
While battling for J&K’s Statehood and wishing to end turmoil in his homeland, Azad pointed out the fact in his parliament address that the majority has to lead by an example.
“I think it was a subtle parting comment on the state of affairs in the country today, under his friend’s rule,” Sultan, the congress activist, said.
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