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It's Not Easy to Say Bye to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Parliament as Veteran Leader’s Capabilities Cut Across Party Lines

File photo of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (Image: PTI)

File photo of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. (Image: PTI)

When your bitterest opponents shed tears at your farewell and say that doors will remain open for him as the Prime Minister did, it’s a sign that his report card as a parliamentarian has many As.

It came as no surprise when Ghulam Nabi Azad won the best parliamentarian award in 2015. The job of a leader of the Opposition isn’t an easy one even when the Opposition has the numbers and the ruling party does not enjoy the brute majority which it does have in the Lok Sabha. But then the BJP is a master strategist and what they lacked in numbers they made up for by their Chanakya niti in the Rajya Sabha.

When it seemed that the Opposition would rule on contentious legislation like say triple talaq, the BJP managed to woo and ensure that some parties like TRS, YSR and BSP took a stand by not taking a stand.

Azad, many say belong to that fast diminishing tribe of netas, who despite belonging to a particular political party had friends across the spectrum.

Ghulam Nabi Azad has been a Rajya Sabha member for 28 years and a Lok Sabha member for 10 years. He was the parliamentary affairs minister under Dr Manmohan Singh, but was sent as the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister for three years. His easy style, years of experience as a Member of Parliament and the Chief Minister of J&K and organisational capabilities and stint as parliamentary affairs minister helped him to build an amicable relation with many politicians which comes in handy.

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As the parliament affairs minister when UPA came to power in 2004, he faced a strange challenge. There were a record number of first time MPs and he had to explain the nitty gritties of the functioning of Parliament to them. “I would come to Parliament two hours before the session would begin and call many of the young MPs telling them that a whip issued was sacrosanct and that if need be they would have to come on a stretcher if a whip was issued.”

It never came to that extent, but he ensured that he set an example and would without fail be in the House even as the staff was just trickling in.

Azad, as the parliamentary affairs minister, faced a belligerent BJP in the Opposition. During the 2G controversy when Parliament was disrupted for days and Sushma Swaraj and other tall leaders were unrelenting, Azad would coolly walk up to their room for a cup of tea and convince them to calm down. Unlike Pranab Mukherjee who was known for his temper, Azad was just the opposite and known for his mild manners. Sources say when Sonia Gandhi saw that things could get tricky and were going out of hands, she would ask Azad to step in, preferring to keep the hot tempered Pranabda away.

When your bitterest opponents shed tears at your farewell and say that doors will remain open for him as the Prime Minister did, it’s a sign that his report card as a parliamentarian has many As.

A section of the Congress may be upset with him for his letter to Sonia Gandhi, but many in the Rajya Sabha would want to see him back. In the din of acrimony and bitterness, Azad with his slight smile and Urdu couplets and years of experience stood out. As a senior minister, said: “It is not easy to say bye to Azad saab. We sometimes forget that he is a Congressman.”

first published:February 09, 2021, 18:01 IST