His ‘Indian Muslim’ shrill might’ve cemented the slot his ‘buddy’ promised during an emotional farewell, but in Kashmir’s Congress camp, the former chief minister remains the leader whose central canvassing continues to baffle even his contemporaries.
The silence from the Delhi-based Congress headquarters over the retirement of the ‘Gandhi family loyalist’ Ghulam Nabi Azad has flown far across to its office on Srinagar’s Maulana Azad road.
The ‘Pradesh Congress’ head-office is a jilted concrete erection that once used to be a hot ground for the political happening in the valley, flooded with party workers and political figures.
A couple of guards on the gate and a small bunch of workers in the lawn make almost no difference to the deserted view that the place is displaying.
Initiating the talk and keeping others involved is party’s District Srinagar President, Abdul Gani Khan. Boost talk lifting the mood has been an easy task to pick for the congressman since his college stint.
The septuagenarian goes back to the university days when he as a senior shook hands with the young Ghulam Nabi Azad.
“Our political proximities didn’t hide back for too long,” recalls Khan who reflected the same line of political inclinations as Azad did.
Their mutual perception of Congress party being “secular party that accommodates minorities and suppressed voices equally” made them foot-soldiers of the ‘Hand’ outfit.
“History remembers,” Khan adds, “that those holding the throne today were stooges of the British when forefathers of the party irrespective of any religion, creed, caste and colour fought for the freedom of India.”
The forefathers of Congress party were Muslims who gave blood along with the people from different faiths in the freedom struggle of India, Khan’s address to his workers goes tune high.
It was on these lines, he says, Azad went ahead in his political journey from a young party worker representing Doda and Baderwah region, to becoming the president of the youth wing.
“It was with the support and the trust from all three regions of the State he went ahead,” says Khan while other respond back nodding their heads.
The shift in Azad’s political career happened in the 1970s when he was spotted by Indira Gandhi and took a liking for what Khan says ‘humble and simple’ personality of the Chenab man.
Soon, Azad was in Delhi, gaining traction and attention in the inner circles of Congress’s upper brass leadership.
“While leaders like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed throughout the 70s and 80s took the Congress stint on in J&K, Azad remained the nucleus and the reasonable voice of the region in Delhi and the Congress affairs,” Khan says.
During Rajiv Gandhi era, his political stature only increased.
“While he remained away from his people and region but he always stood for them whenever time demanded to,” Khan says. “Didn’t he confront and stand-alone when others stepped back or resigned after the abrogation of Article-370 and 35-A?”
Azad had denounced New Delhi’s abrogation move as ‘the murder of constitution’.
“He performed while others who were supposed to represent their respective people and party stands weren’t able to do that,” Khan says. “None did it like him.”
Azad’s return to the regional political affairs came in 2002 when a collation government between his party and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) promised him CM-ship for later three years.
“Finding a meeting ground between Congress party and then its former patron and the leader of the newly formed PDP wouldn’t have been possible if Azad wasn’t part of it,” Khan says as ‘all open-ended approach’ of Azad he says broke the ice.
“Azad sensed the opportunity as his vision has always reflected optimism despite the betrayals he has faced in his political career.”
After his retirement, political pundits say, Azad might see a new assignment at hand.
His political career is replete with instances when he was used to ending the political void in Jammu and Kashmir.
With his friend, premier Narendra Modi throwing his weight behind him, many say, the former chief minister might be playing his part in ending the protracting political vacuum induced by the August 5, 2019 move in the erstwhile state.
Although no such murmur is echoing in the congress house, the statehood backer’s comeback on centre’s mission doesn’t seem surprising.
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