Days after his resignation from the Congress, Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday launched his own party at a reception rally in Jammu and Kashmir’s winter capital, Jammu.
Azad received a rousing reception from his political associates and followers upon his arrival at the airport in Jammu. Later, he was taken in a rally to Sainik Farm where he addressed his first audience after dissociation from the Congress party.
The 73-year-old politician, who has served as a Union Minister, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha member, Leader of Opposition in the Parliament’s Upper House and Chief Minister of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir for over 40 years, said that he was still looking for a name and flag for his party. He, nevertheless, made it clear that the name as well as the flag would be equally acceptable to the populations in Kashmir and Jammu.
According to him, there were certain names under consideration but he would pick up one with a ‘Hindustani’ texture, “neither from a Maulana’s Urdu, nor from Saint’s Sanskrit”. “My name is Ghulam Nabi. Everybody knows the religion I belong to. But, from day one of my political career, I have been dedicated equally to all religions and regions”, Azad asserted.
Azad said that the Congress party had 9 MLAs in the J&K State’s last Assembly. “Of them, 3 were from Ladakh and 6 from J&K. Of the six, five are with me and only one (new JKPCC President Vikar Rasool Wani of Banihal Jammu) is with the Congress”, Azad said. He welcomed his longtime associates, former Ministers and legislators, into his fold. “Not one of them has joined after meeting me. They all joined after resigning from the Congress party. I am highly thankful to them”, Azad said. He mentioned the names of the former Ministers, MLAs and MLCs including Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, Taj Mohiuddin, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, R.S. Chib, Thakur Balwan Singh, Choudhary Akram, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Gulzar Ahmad Wani, Haji Abdul Rashid, Shoib Lone as also the former PDP MLA and Minister from Pulwama Kashmir, Syed Bashir Ahmed, who were all in his reception on the dais.
“This is just the beginning of an affair. See what comes next”, Azad said while quoting a famous Urdu couplet and welcoming the PDP leader into his party. Without taking the name of the Apni Party (AP) president Altaf Bukhari, Azad said that the Kashmir politician’s diatribe against him was unwarranted and without any reason. At the same time, Azad called the National Conference president and former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah as a seasoned leader and mature politician “who didn’t utter a single word against me”.
Without mentioning any names, Azad said that some people had reduced the Congress party to just computer and Twitter. “Congress was made by us by our blood, not by computers, not by Twitter. People are trying to defame us but their reach is limited to computers and tweets. That is the reason Congress is nowhere to be seen on the ground today”, Azad said.
“I thank everyone who supported me through resignations, WhatsApp messages and other mediums from across the country since my resignation from the party. I have served the Congress party holding every position for last 53 years, but never received this much of love even when I am not on any position. Today, when I am nothing, not a Minister, not Chief Minister, not MP or Leader of Opposition, everybody is on my side”, Azad said.
Taking a jibe at Congress, Azad said that people from Congress now go to jail in buses, call DGP or Commissioners, get their names written and leave within an hour. This is the reason Congress has been unable to grow. Azad recalled the day when, as President of All India Youth Congress, he organised and led a rally of 5,000 youth Congress workers in support of Indira Gandhi from Jamia Masjid to India Gate. “On way to India Gate, we were all arrested and put in Tihar Jail. While Mrs Gandhi was released in a day, others including Azad were let off after more than a month.
Unfolding his new party’s agenda, Azad said that it would struggle for restoration of J&K’s Statehood and limiting the right to own immovable property and the government jobs “only to the insiders, not outsiders”. Without demanding restoration of Article 370 and 35-A, which were scrapped in August 2019, Azad said that Jammu and Kashmir should exist as a State with Governor, not a Union Territory with a Lieutenant Governor.
After meeting with his colleagues and followers in Jammu for four days, Azad said that he would be addressing some public meetings in Chenab valleys before entering the Kashmir valley through Sinthan Pass via Kishtwar.