Jammu, Nov 19: Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday welcomed the repealing of three farm laws yet with “a heavy heart.” He wished it could have been done earlier so as to save many lives.
While addressing a press conference at his residence this afternoon, Azad also offered his full support to the government in its resolve to wipe out militancy in J&K in next two years, a deadline spelt out by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha a couple of days back.
He, however, evaded a direct reply to a query as if it would open Pandora’s box vis-a-vis demands related to repealing the Parliament decisions of abrogating Article 370 and 35-A taken on August 5, 2019.
“This is (part of) democracy. In democracy, we’ve to go by the will of the people. There was no controversy, let me tell you. There may be bills; number of bills....some people may be for the bill and some may be against (it). In democracy, this is bound to happen. However, this particular bill (set of Farm bills) was the one that nobody wanted. No one was in favour of this bill. Everybody was opposed to these bills. Everybody, irrespective of the religion, region, section of the society, wanted these bills to be withdrawn, to be repealed,” he said.
Former Chief Minister, while answering different queries including the one related to his frequent visits to J&K and linking it to his “warming up to election probability”, dropped hints towards his fresh political inning in J&K.
“See what the people want is one aspect. They want me to be here amongst them or not and in what role – bigger or smaller- is a separate proposition. However as a political representative, we’re duty bound to be - by the side of people in their sufferings. However this could not happen in the past two years or so because of “Double Pabandi” – Initially there were restrictions imposed by the government after August 5 developments and later there were curbs on movement on account of Corona. Visit to Jammu or Srinagar is not a visit to J&K. We’ll have to visit the entire J&K and compensate for the loss of two years by becoming an effective interface between the people and the government,” he said.
When asked to comment on LG Sinha’s statement to wipe out militancy from J&K in two years, his instant response was, “I wish. I’ll be at the forefront in offering my full support.”
“They have to see and ensure it happens. If he has said that, he must be ready to do that. We’ll cooperate. I think each political party should cooperate. We’ll be the happiest persons if that happens,” he responded when asked if this objective could be achieved.
Azad also sought to downplay his exclusion from the reconstituted Disciplinary Committee of All India Congress Committee (AICC).
“I’ve been in the Disciplinary Committee for quite long. I’ve been part of it for five years during late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure...almost 36 years back. I was there in this committee during the last one decade. This is not some committee which meets every day. It meets only once in two years or once a year. I did not remember when its last meeting was. I think this committee has not met during the last one and a half decades. So this (development) is not something which means a big thing,” he responded.
He was reacting to a query if the Congress leadership was trying to discipline all those people who were asking for changes within the party.
Did he think that the party leadership was not very democratic in its approach by taking such sudden decisions (by dropping) him from the Disciplinary Committee?
Already in the eye of storm, following resignation by his loyalists from the party posts in the J&K Congress unit, Azad chose not to court further controversy while responding to this query.
“These are some issues which are the party's internal issues. They need not to be discussed with the media in public,” was his precise reply.
His comment to a question about the demands raised by former ministers and legislators owing allegiance to him in yesterday’s public rally to replace JKPCC president G A Mir with him (Azad) too was a measured and diplomatic one.
“This should not have happened or spoken, however someone said this. But then our Congress is such a democratic party where everyone has a freedom to air one’s opinion,” he said.
Azad agreed when asked if the impending elections (in Punjab, UP) played a role behind the repeal decision. “That’s obvious; I need not tell that. I would say that elections only have played a role. But it is good....maybe that will be a by-product. But ultimately the government has accepted to withdraw these bills. That’s a good thing which has happened, But I wish that this thing should have happened, when the Parliament was in session, there were debates on this particular issue, there were walkouts, there were dharnas for almost a year...for months together people spent days in extreme cold and gruelling summers. Large number of people also died during these dharnas. It would have been much better for the country and for the farmers had it been done earlier rather the last year only. Had this decision been taken earlier, many lives would not have been lost to vagaries of weather. Men, women, elders, children would not have suffered. Nevertheless, this is a decision which cannot be criticised and can be welcomed only. However, we welcome it with a heavy heart. Anyway, this is something which every one of us should welcome.”
Former Chief Minister did see reason in the stated position of protesting farmers’ leadership that they would not call off their dharna till the laws were repealed by the Parliament and their all other issues including Minimum Support Price (MSP) were sorted out. Responding to a query on this account, Azad said, “See this is an announcement and the Parliament session is about to begin this month only after 10 days. That is a very short period. I believe that a bill in this connection will be tabled in the ensuing session. I hope before that the government will enter into a dialogue with the farmers. Mere repealing the bill, while leaving (farmers’) many outstanding issues pending, will not serve the purpose. If this initiative is not taken with sincerity or is implemented in piece-meals...half-heartedly....with ‘half-baked’ planning, this will lead to more problems.”
“Now when you’ve repealed these laws, you (government) should move ahead with a clear-conscience. The government should accommodate all the demands of farmers and their all misgivings should be removed,” he suggested.
He did not see any reason for any politics unfolding after the repealing act. “The repealing should not be seen as anyone’s win or defeat. Even Rajiv Gandhi government had withdrawn a law. In a democracy the will of the people is supreme and should be given precedence over everything else. The government should not link it to its prestige. Sensing the mood of people, the decision is already delayed. It should have come earlier. Nevertheless, I hope that the present dispensation now will not bring any anti-people law in haste,” Azad said.
Azad also declined to comment on the commitment of BJP to bring a law on the Uniform Civil Code in its manifesto. “Let’s remain focussed on the laws which have been repealed. Let’s not raise any such issue which has the potential to divide the people and the country. I hope the government too will not take any such divisive move during election season,” he added.
Later in the evening, the former Chief Minister visited the Government Medical College Hospital (GMCH) Jammu and met the accident victims from Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.
Talking to media, outside the hospital, he identified three reasons viz., narrow roads (including narrow highway stretches); negligent, rash driving and overloading as three main reasons for frequent accidents there on and along Srinagar Jammu National Highway. He asked the concerned authorities to work on these issues.