In an exclusive interview with India Today TV, Democratic Progressive Azad Party chief Ghulam Nabi Azad opened up about his experiences in the Congress, his deteriorating relationship with the top brass and his eventual exit from the grand old party. He also talked about his vision for his newly found party and his home state, Jammu and Kashmir.
While stating that he has no ill-will towards the Congress, with which he was associated for decades, Azad also took a number of jabs at former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the party high command.
A former Gandhi family loyalist, Azad compared the Congress’s present-day leadership to when Indira Gandhi was at the helm, noting that the party’s functioning has undergone a sea-change and that “appointment culture” has taken over.
He said he disagreed with Indira Gandhi’s perception as a “dictator”, insisting that he found her style of working to be very democratic. He recalled the time when, as president of the Indian Youth Congress, he got to work closely with Indira Gandhi.
Azad said, “She was the most democratic personâ€æ The kind of accessibility I had to her, junior leaders today do not have that. You could meet Indira Gandhi any time. Now you can’t think of it, it’s a thing of the past.”
The former Rajya Sabha MP said the Congress became “inimical” to him after he quit the party. “No other party has opposed me as much as the Congress. When Mr Modi praised me on the floor of the House, instead of being happy, they became very annoyed. They even opposed my getting a Padma Bhushan,” he detailed.
Answering to the Congress party’s charge that he has become the “B-team of the BJP”, Azad quipped, “I could say the same thing about them. Congress is doing nothing. They have given a free run to the BJP.”
Azad made it clear that after floating his own political outfit, he has not allied himself to any other party. Talking about the impending Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the former CM noted that in the last few poll fights, no party had secured a majority on its own. As such, J&K-based parties like Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and Faroq Abdullah’s NC joined hands with the BJP, he pointed out.
Asked about his equation with Rahul Gandhi, Azad talked about the mistakes the former made, such as not taking then Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma’s anger at the party leadership seriously. Azad said when he apprised Rahul Gandhi of Sarma’s mutiny, the latter replied, “Let him go”.
Sarma, who went on to join the BJP and is the chief minister of Assam, was an important Congress strategist and troubleshooter. Ten MLAs went him when he quit the party in September 2015.