Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad this week bid farewell to over 40 years of parliamentary life. Here he speaks exclusively to News18.com on his plans and his rapport with Prime Minster Narendra Modi and his equations with party chief Sonia Gandhi.
It was a tearful farewell for you. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself was in tears while speaking about you.
Well, I was touched and overwhelmed. The Vice President and the PM all spoke very nicely about me. I have worked very hard in different capacities. Of course, I have worked very hard for the party, but I have also worked very hard as a minister.
On the number of occasions I would tell my officers, when I was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, that I would be ashamed if any of my colleagues would work on the basis of religion or differentiate on the basis of religion, region or political beliefs. We have to work for everybody. We have to work for every political party. I told everyone that, please don’t come to me for any one party. If it is for the development, don’t differentiate between parties and others.
I am a hardcore Congressman and I would like my party to come back again but as long as I was the chief minister I never asked for any vote for the party from any forum, because a chief minister belongs to all parties.
It was the same when I was a minister. I would tell them that people know my name, my religion and they know I am from the Congress, yet if someone comes to me for a work, I have no right not to do his work. This has been my basic principle. I thought this effort of mine has gone waste. But yesterday when everyone was speaking and saying I never discriminated against anybody, I felt satisfied that what I have done for four decades has been recognised.
The PM crying was an emotional moment. As an individual not as a Congressman how did you feel?
There are two things here. One was that they were very good words spoken by the honourable Prime Minister for me. I am thankful to him for that. The emotional part was for a different reason. It was about a terror attack when many Gujaratis were killed in J&K and the way I was weeping then. That is what had moved Modiji then also. He must have felt that I don’t differentiate between the people of Gujarat or people of Kashmir. I felt similar pain for them all. I think he recalled that and became emotional. I equally became emotional. I remember when I went to see off the Gujarati brothers and sisters, especially children were crying and asking where their father was. There I had broken down. And the Gujarati media showed it for days together and naturally Modi as CM saw this. He was recalling that.
He also took a dig at your party. About the group of 23 and the letter you wrote.
I think the PM was saying that in a lighter moment. The PM and I have met not for the first time. We have been general secretaries of our respective parties. We took part in TV debates together. We had tea and coffee together. When CM meetings were held, we would meet. We know each other. He knows I am a hardcore Congressman and I know he is a hardcore BJP person. We are not going to cross the Lakshman Rekha either side. But he appreciated my work.