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J&K Lens: Azad’s praise of PM transforms political landscape

3/03/2021 at 6:03 PM

By Arun Joshi

Senior  Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi  at a function  during his recent visit to Jammu  has laid bare the fault lines in Congress party  that believes that criticizing Modi  is the only way to  win political battles.

What Azad said about Prime Minister while praising him at a function of Gujjars, tribesmen of Jammu and Kashmir  on February 28 can be interpreted in two ways: one the literal meaning of what he said, and the other political nuances . The political attributes have caused a problem for Congress that is fighting a do or  die political battle in the five states going to polls , including Assam, West Bengal , Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala.

First , what Azad told Gujjars – “ you should be proud of your heritage and background . I know many top leaders who take pleasure in identifying themselves with their humble background.” So far so good.

Then he moved on to say: “ Among the top leaders is Prime Minister Narendra Modi , who never hides the fact that he comes from a village  and that he was a tea seller.” This again is simple because Azad was trying to emphasise the point that  all those who rise to high positions  should not hide their background . In a way, he gave credit to the Prime Minister  Modi for being his true self .

There arose the problem – Congress party , especially the Gandhi family loyalists – were annoyed that how could  Azad praise prime minister .  They ignored the  audio-visual context and tried to  see what might have been the behind-the scene message from Azad to Prime Minister, especially when Narendra Modi had lavishly praised the Congress  leader when he retired from  Rajya Sabha last month . Prime Minister had described Azad as an exceptional leader who believed in upholding the democratic values , parliamentary ethics and keeping the interest of the nation above the  politics .

That image and words had already set the tongues wagging in the political circles that PM and Azad, who is counted among the tallest leaders of the Congress party and also the leading voice against Gandhis- Sonia Gandhi and Rahul  Gandhi- had reached some understanding , and Azad may be rewarded for this new-found bonhomie with the top leader of the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party.

Azad’s detractors in the party  started decoding Azad’s words of praise for the Prime Minister in their own ways. To them, the praise of Modi meant an insult to the  party because they had blamed Prime Minister for everything that had gone wrong in the country – farmers agitation, rising fuel prices, divisive politics and curb on the civil liberties and also undermining of the democratic institutions .

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, once an Azad loyalist, rushed to Delhi and met former Congress president Rahul Gandhi  and apprised him of the situation . He wanted the  party to call an explanation  of Azad on this.

“ I would like Azad to clear his words and actions,”  Mir told media  for he believed that Azad had breached the party’s organizational  protocol – the absence of the posters of Sonia and Rahul at his rallies , and no mention of their leadership . That being that, he  said he was “ amazed that  senior leader like Azad  praised the Prime Minister.

Some of  Azad detractors  burnt his effigies in Jammu to drive home the point that they were angry with him and his utterances and would be happy to see him out of the party. Shahnawaz Choudhary , the Congress leader, who led the noisy protests , said “ the arty gave Azad so much , recognition and position , but he betrayed the party by praising PM.”

The real anger against Azad stems from the fact that he is the only nationally known Muslim face of Congress and his praise  of Prime Minister  could  cost the party heavily in the  elections . Moreover , the Congress party’s allegations against  Modi that he was against Muslims also loses sting and puts it on the backfoot .

The differences are bound to widen and in the coming days, Azad’s praise of PM will infuriate the Gandhi loyalist camp more and more, as BJP may take advantage of the words of Azad in the campaign in the elections underway in five states.

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.

He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.

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This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com

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