Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he speaks frankly about his past as a tea-seller and does not try to hide his background from the world. Addressing a function by Gujjar Desh Charitable Trust here, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said a person should be proud of his roots.
I admire several things about a number of leaders… I am from a village and I am proud of it. A big leader, our prime minister, says he is from a village, he used to sell tea. “We may have political differences, but at least he doesn’t hide his reality,” the opposition leader said.
Modi had recently profusely praised Azad, who was the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, during the Congress MP’s farewell in the Upper House. An emotional prime minister had recalled how Azad had reached out to him in 2006 after tourists from Gujarat were killed in a terrorist attack and had said the person who will replace the Congress leader will find it tough to match his contribution.
Azad’s remarks come a day after he and other ‘G-23’ dissident leaders, who have been pressing for a leadership change and organisational overhaul in the Congress, gathered on one stage at an event here and said the party is weakening. In a brief interaction with media persons, Azad did not agree with the suggestion that the presence of senior party leaders at a function here on Saturday was a show of strength to convey a message to the party high command.
The leaders, including Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Raj Babbar, were part of the group which had triggered a storm in the party last year with their letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, expressing unhappiness over its functioning and demanding a full-time party president. I have returned after a gap of one-and-a-half years. Before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic (in March last year), there was a budget and winter session. There was a long demand that a function be organised, he said.
Asked about the situation in J-K before and after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Centre on August 5, 2019, he quipped, It is like a DGP being stripped of his rank and made an ordinary policeman. I can tell that the developmental work used to take place in triple shifts which is not happening now. I went around many areas and have seen the roads in a dilapidated condition, industries closed down. There is a talk of development but it is only on paper and not visible on the ground, he claimed.
Azad asked the government to ensure that development schemes are implemented and to focus on improving the economic condition of the region by pumping more money “beyond the regular budgetary allocation as was the practice in the past during the Congress rule”. Earlier, addressing the gathering, he asked the elected representatives in civic bodies to work for the people.
I want to tell the elected representatives including District Development Council (DDC) and Block Development Council (BDC) members who have won from the seats reserved for their categories to work tirelessly for the benefit of the community. “You have been elected through reservation and it is your responsibility to utilise your services for your community, Azad said.