PM breaks down several times remembering association with Azad

TV grab shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. (UNI)
TV grab shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. (UNI)

Proud to be a Hindustani Muslim, says Azad

We have taken India’s flag to Kashmir villages: PDP MP

NEW DELHI, Feb 9: Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke down several times in the Rajya Sabha today while reminiscing about his close association with Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad whose term is coming to an end next week.
The Prime Minister was participating in the farewell speech for Leader of Opposition Azad and three other members from Jammu and Kashmir — Nazir Ahmad Laway, Shamsher Singh Manhas, Mir Mohammad Fayaz– whose terms in the Upper House are coming to an end.
Modi said it would be difficult for anyone to fill the shoes of Azad as he cared not only about his political affiliation but also about the country and the House.

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“I worry that after Azad whosoever will take over from him will have to fill very big boots because he cared not only about his party but about the country as well as the House. This is not a small thing, this a big thing,” Modi said.
He noted that Azad had called him to ask for an all party meeting during COVID-19 period.
“I liked that and also did it. This kind of connection is there because he has the experience of both being in power and in opposition. Twenty-eight years experience in all, it is a big thing,” the Prime Minister said.
Reminiscing about their long association, Modi said that as Chief Ministers of Jammu ad Kashmir and Gujarat, both of them kept in touch with each other.
Sharing details of their communication during a terrorist attack on some Gujarati pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir, Modi said Azad was the first one to call him about the incident.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, Modi said that Azad cried on the call while informing him about the horrific attack.
“Azad was the first person to call me. During that call he could not stop crying,” Modi said with a choked voice as tears rolled down from his eyes.
Azad later went to the airport when the bodies were sent back and kept in touch till the plane landed in Gujarat, Modi said.
“Power comes and goes but (only a few know) how to digest it…Therefore like a friend, I respect him on the basis of the things he has done over these years,” Modi said while wiping his tears and saluting Azad.
Modi said he believes that Azad’s concern for his country won’t let him sit and whatever responsibilities he takes in the future would be beneficial for the nation.
“At a personal level, I would request him to not believe that he is not in the House. My door is always open for all of you. I will always expect and value your inputs,” he said.
“I will not let you become weak,” the prime minister told Azad as he closed his comments.
Earlier, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu described Azad as a voice of sanity in public life over few decades when he made valuable contributions while serving both in Government and in Opposition.
Naidu said Azad’s retirement is particularly painful with the House having lost Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha today bid farewell to four retiring members of the Upper House with Deputy Chairman Harivansh heaping lavish praise on the leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, terming him a repository of rich experiences.
The veteran Congress leader and Nazir Ahmed Laway (PDP) will retire on February 15 while the terms of Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) and Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP) will end on February 10.
“It was my fortune that I got to sit next to Ghulam Nabi Azad in the House… He has connected the entire country with Jammu and Kashmir… I have not come across a person like him who has such rich experiences… Have learnt a lot from his guidance, decency, conduct…,” Harivansh said.
Azad’s political stature is unparallel, he said and added that the Congress leader has risen to such a position in national politics from a block level worker in Kashmir.
He appreciated him for the mammoth work in the health sector like National Urban Health Mission and setting up of Medical Colleges.
Retirement from the House is only a temporary thing and not a break in his chosen path of serving the nation, Harivansh said.
Fayaz in his speech said, “We work for this country. We have taken the flag of the country to villages. It hurts and saddens us when we are called anti-national by the media and others.”
He recalled his journey from Kupwara, near Pakistan border and from the Municipal Committee there to Rajya Sabha and said he worked for the mainstream and against separatist calls.
He praised the Government for the work in the areas of schemes like Ujjwala and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, both of whom were present in the House, to “do justice to people to J&K” by restoring Statehood and special status and thereby winning and strengthening their faith.
The PDP MP recalled that multiple Ministers including former Finance Minister late Arun Jaitley, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, former Health Minister JP Nadda and MoS PMO Dr Jitendra Singh had always extended support to J&K whenever help was sought from them. In fact, he blamed elements in the Union Territory for any problems that arose. Earlier, PM Modi had also praised his passion towards J&K’s progress.
In his speech, Manhas said: “I come from Kashmir, the mukat mani (crown jewel) of the country, and am sitting among others from the country. I have worked for this mukut mani and will work for it in the future too.”
He said he has visited all parts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and learnt a lot from Modi about conduct in public life.
Another retiring member Laway appealed for restoration of Statehood besides rail connectivity.
He remembered his party leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who sent him to this House and said he developed a relationship with all the members and people because he came to Rajya Sabha.
He urged the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for human and other resources development work in Jammu & Kashmir saying they have to take care of the Union Territory because now there would no representation in the House from there.
Meanwhile, Azad said he feels proud to be an Indian Muslim.
Delivering his farewell speech in the Upper House of Parliament, the veteran Congressman recalled his association with several leaders, including stalwarts from other parties, which helped him learn many things.
In his 28-minute speech, he used several couplets and hoped for the restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir and the return of Kashmiri Pandits back to the valley.
Recalling his journey, Azad, who started his political career when he was still a student, said reading about Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad made him patriotic.
He said it would take weeks to narrate his legislative experience of 41 years and recalled how his political career started during his school days.
“When I was a college student in Jammu and Kashmir, both August 14 and August 15 used to be celebrated. The majority used to celebrate August 14. I was among those few fortunate people, about a dozen, who used to celebrate August 15,” Azad said.
The former Union Minister said he is among those “lucky” people who have never gone to Pakistan.
“When I read about the state of affairs in Pakistan, I feel proud that I am a Hindustani Musalman,” he said.
Muslims in India should have pride for themselves as they have kept away from the evils that are there in the neighbouring countries, Azad said.
However, he also added: “The majority community should also take two steps forward.”
Remembering his tenure as the Chief Minister of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, Azad said he had convened his first public meeting in the troubled Sopore district, which is unthinkable even today.
“I had said my Government would be a Government of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and if any Minister worked on the basis of religion and party, I would be ashamed,” he said.
Azad specially thanked former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and late Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi, saying he reached here only because of them.
“I have worked with five Presidents and around four or five Prime Ministers as a member of their Cabinets. I also got the opportunity to work as the party in-charge of States and Union Territories 35-36 times,” he said, adding that he got to learn several things from these experiences.
Azad also remembered how he got chances to work with senior Congress leaders and even with stalwarts of other political parties while negotiating on behalf of his party, including Jyoti Basu of the CPI(M), M Karunanidhi of the DMK, J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, Chandra Shekhar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Parkash Singh Badal, G K Moopanar, K Karunakaran, Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
“I was the Parliamentary Affairs Minister with three Prime Ministers,” he said.
However, Azad said he had a special bond with late BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“I cannot forget that Indiraji used to tell me and Fotedarji (Makhan Lal Fotedar), who was then her political secretary, to be in touch with Atalji. She did not say the BJP, but asked us to be in touch with Atalji,” he said.
Azad said from 1991-96, when the Congress was in power, he was the Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the minority Government and Vajpayee was the leader of Opposition, he learnt a lot from the latter.
“I have learnt from him as to how a solution is arrived at in which both the Government and the Opposition will have their say,” he said.
Azad said he has cried only five times in his life — when Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi died, which were sudden, during the tsunami in 1999 and in 2005, when he was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorists had killed Gujarati tourists in a grenade attack on their bus.
Even when his father died, he had tears in his eyes but did not cry, he said. (PTI)