Srinagar: Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had received a heartfelt farewell from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his retirement day from Rajya Sabha earlier this month, spoke words of praise for the PM for never hiding his true self.
The former Rajya Sabha MP, who hails from J&K and has served three years as Chief Minister, drew parallels between himself and the Prime Minister, of whom he said “I appreciate he doesn’t hide his true self”.
Mr. Azad whom PM Modi had lauded in the Rajya Sabha and had choked up and struggled to speak, also warned political leaders (he took no names) against “living in a bubble”.
“I like a lot of things about many leaders. I’m from a village and am proud of that… I’m also proud that leaders like our Prime Minister, who used to sell tea, also come from villages. We may be rivals but I appreciate he doesn’t hide his true self,” Mr Azad said in a video.
“Those who do… are living in a bubble. A man should be proud (of who he is and where he comes from). I have travelled the world and stayed in 5-star hotels, in 7-star hotels… but when I sit with people from my village… there is a fragrance that makes it special,” he added.
On February 9, the Prime Minister got emotional as he praised his “true friend” Mr Azad, and said: “I (will) not let you retire, I will continue taking your advice. My doors are always open for you.”
The opposition leader returned Modi’s praise, noting that Prime Minister separated personal ties and party politics.
Mr Azad’s words – at a public event in Jammu – are likely to create turbulence in the upper echelons of the Congress’ leadership, particularly since they come a day after he and several other senior leaders said they feared “the Congress getting weak” ahead of five key Assembly polls.
“The truth is that we see the Congress getting weak. That is why we have gathered. We gathered earlier too and we have to strengthen the party together,” Kapil Sibal said.
Meanwhile, Mr Sibal also warned his party against underestimating Mr Azad’s value. “… since he came into politics, he has played his role for the party and gained a lot of experience over the years.”
On Saturday, the veteran Congress leader had shared a stage with other members of the G-23 – a group of senior party leaders who have questioned the Gandhis’ leadership style – at a public event in Jammu and Kashmir. The praise came as some G-23 members express unhappiness over the party’s ‘treatment’ of Mr Azad, with references made yesterday to “other parties offering seat to Mr Azad”.