Elections and Emotional Exploitation: Azad on Article 370

Now after 14 years this is my second innings though with a totally different agenda, but I am so delighted and so happy that I have been accepted in my new role much more than I was accepted as Congress leader whether being Union Minister or Chief Minister.
Now after 14 years this is my second innings though with a totally different agenda, but I am so delighted and so happy that I have been accepted in my new role much more than I was accepted as Congress leader whether being Union Minister or Chief Minister. ANI

After resigning from Congress, Ghulam Nabi Azad is presently in Jammu and Kashmir to start his second political innings. Consulting Editor Greater Kashmir, Emaad Makhdoomi, exclusively spoke to him on his new mission. Excerpts from the interview.

Greater Kashmir: You are in J&K to start a new political innings. Is the response on expected lines here for you?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: Well, of course the party may be new. But the man behind the party is old. Party may not be having the experience but the person behind the party is an experienced person, who knows the world, who knows the country and who knows the ins and outs of Jammu and Kashmir and more so  after becoming the chief minister of the state.

I know it is very difficult. But luckily I had succeeded in my mission and agenda from 2005 to  2008- barely less than three years and that time I had the tremendous support of the people from all sections of the society, from all regions and all religions.

I was lucky enough. Now after 14 years this is my second innings though with a totally different agenda, but I am so delighted and so happy that I have been accepted in my new role much more than I was accepted as Congress leader whether being Union Minister or Chief Minister.

So, I can say with great authority that whatever support I had or whatever support I enjoyed as Chief Minister from the sections of the society, today when I entered the state  politics after 14 years, I am getting the support of all regions and religions . Large number of leaders and people from other parties want to join me , which I am not encouraging at all for two reasons.

Greater Kashmir: What are the two reasons?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: One, because most leaders in political parties have been my colleagues and friends. I have known them for decades together. So, I do not want to hurt their feelings. Some people tell me they do not want to remain there and want to resign and come, I am saying no, I do not want.

Then there are some frequent travellers, who are part of frequent traveler programme in politics. So I do not encourage frequent travellers from one party to another party. They keep on going from one green pasture to another greener pasture. I do not encourage. I will encourage a few. Mostly, some individuals here and there.

But that will be left to individuals. Mostly, I will encourage those, who are not in any political party, who are new, who will throw new leadership-both boys and girls. There is great enthusiasm  among the youth to join our party. Youth are fed up with the situation and slogans we have been giving from time to time.

And not a single slogan has born the fruit right from 1947 till date. Which is why I want to change the scenario from mere slogans, from mere exploiting the religious sentiments. It may be BJP in Jammu and it may be our regional parties here. Because in exploiting the religion, whichever religious or political leader is using the religion, it is not fair with the voters. Then their political will gets vitiated by these slogans and then they cannot give free and fair judgement. A voter should be given a free mind to decide. 

Yes, every individual has a religion and to stick to that religion is the best thing because that will make you a good human being. All those religions leaders, who stuck to the religion become very good human beings. They were not against any other religion. They would respect their religion, practice their religion and equally respect other religions. Similarly politics is totally different than religion. I may go for Hajj, nimaz, zakaat but when I am in public life, I have to own everybody.

Then everybody will own me. Then they will have faith in me, otherwise they will not have faith in me. So when we come into this life, then we should not exploit the religion. Then we are not giving a free choice to a person to choose a leader, party or vote for. So I want the public be Hindu or Muslim should be out of shackles while casting his or her vote.

It should be political, on political thinking, political development. And not Muslims have to necessarily vote for that political party and Hindus for that political party. Then you are not doing justice with the party. That is why I said in Jammu also that BJP cannot be the party of one religion and Congress, NC and PDP cannot be party of one religion.

If your goal is clear and you have to achieve something , you should be acceptable to everybody. So do not give such a slogan, which will divide the people.

Greater Kashmir: You have said that you cannot or for that matter any other political leader or party cannot restore Article 370?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: No. This is wrong. This is a wrong interpretation. There were two parts of my speech. One part I said in Baramulla and another part I have to say in Anantnag. Because I am very famous for that if I make 10 speeches, all 10 speeches will be different. Only 20 percent will be repetition. Unlike most of the leaders, if they go to people after one month, they repeat the same speech. I change in every speech almost 80 percent.

Twenty percent has to be common because that is concerning everybody. So on one part on Article 370, I said in Baramulla and in another part which I am going to speak at south Kashmir. What did I say in the parliament?  That I am not going to make. Article 370 an election issue. Clear.

And I also request other parties not to make it an issue. Because this is yet another exploiting the sentiments and you have already tried this several times in last 75 years. You have not achieved anything. None of the slogans. After having not achieved anything in 75 years, why should we exploit the sentiments of people for something, which is not in our hands. Then I cited an example.

I got the parliament record yesterday, what is in Lok Sabha, which is more important. I could not get Rajya Sabha record. How many votes were in favour of abrogation of article 370? 378 and how many were against abrogation?  77. So there is a difference of 300 votes. 300 MPs. Where are we going to bring these 300 MPs? They are not banas or oranges you buy. These are elected representatives.

So can anybody guarantee, tell me , I have 40 years in Parliament, that two years down the line we will get 300 MPs more. No. Not practical. So this time and in next parliament it is not possible. So that means as of now we cannot make it an agenda. As and when we have two- third majority, yes I will be the first person to vote.

But having known that even after three years we are not going to have 300, then why should we fool the people? Is it not knowingly fooling yourself and people. They say the are having umeedaen( hopes). Why are you giving umaedaen when you know this is not going to happen. These hopes are there for last 75 years.

How long you will keep alive others on hopes? When you will be practical, when you will be truthful? I am not saying it is not possible. It is possible even today. But it is possible if only Modi will do it. If you are so close to Modi, get it done.I will be behind you. You become the chief minister and please get it done tomorrow. Convince Modi.

I am the last person to tell him and  convince him. I cannot. If you are so powerful and so close to him, you have been in government with him. I am not in his government. I have been his opponent in the parliament. Forget that weeping because that was related to a particular human tragedy of Gujarat. So I do not have that influence on any BJP leader or home minister to get it done.

If they will not do it,  it is not forthcoming. May be after 10 years, 20 years, welcome, good. But it cannot be the agenda of today. Second thing which I was going to tell, I will tell in advance, which I will say in Anantnag. It is the supreme court which is the another hope. But it is hope. Now , three years and one month have passed  since article 370 was abrogated. It is full three years eversince many political parties and individuals went to the supreme court against abrogation of article 370.

Now it is full three years this appeal is before the supreme court. Supreme court has not given yet first hearing. Kapil sibal who has been approached by all the political parties, being the tallest lawyer, he said abhi kuch nahin ha ( There is nothing yet). When supreme court is yet to go for first hearing then, how many hearings and years will it take to decide.

Can any political party guarantee here that they will convince supreme court to start hearing from tomorrow and convince them to finish in one year, and also convince them to give decision in our favour. I cannot. Will any political party guarantee that within one year after its leader becomes chief minister, they will either pass it in parliament or get it done through supreme court.

Yes, you say and give guarantee, I will quit politics. Or they should quit. But people have seen in past,  political parties telling them that they will not allow BJP to cross Banihal but they brought them here. I do not trust anybody on this issue. I pray God that let Parliament has that majority and even having that majority they should support. In parliament eight parties have supported Modi.

Nine parties have supported us. So it is not that all opposition parties are supporting us. Who knows in future he has 12 parties supporting him on the issue. Then can anybody give me guarantee. Do they know political parties more than I know? I know all political parties from Kashmir to Kanyakumari personally.

Even in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha I persuaded many parties to vote for us. Without knowing the realities it is bad to exploit the sentiments. Do not give false hopes. Yes you can say you can construct roads, bridges and other things and fight elections on these issues. In other states these are the election issues. Why are you hiding yourself behind some slogans.

Greater Kashmir: Will your party form an electoral alliance with any other political party here?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: Offcourse,  if we form an electoral alliance, it will be a secular party. Least with BJP. But I cannot say today with which party we will form the alliance.

That depends on the circumstances and whether I need it or not need it. That depends. And I have to be very choosy. Our wavelength should be same.

Because after being in politics for few decades, I do not want to deceive my people. I do not have to make money. Let anybody go to any masjid or ziarat and say that Ghulam Nabi Azad as chief minister has taken one paisa.

Let anybody in the country say I have done it. I am not doing it for money. These are a highly exploited people earlier ruled by different countries and every country and ruler has sucked their blood. Now we have our own rule.

We should be fair and just with them. Not to kep them in ivory towers knowing that what can be done and what cannot be done. I feel so sad when some leaders say hamari umadean. What hopes it should be very clear.

Greater Kashmir: Your critics say that your return to J&K politics has the blessing of BJP?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: Do not ask me . Have I ever been a BJP MP. Have I ever been  in BJP government? Have I ever been in alliance with BJP? Have I taken all my leaders , who joined me to Modi ji and Amit Shah Ji? Better do not say this and let me remain silent . Chup hee rehnay daaen mujhay. Otherwise, I will have to speak out.

Greater Kashmir: What do you think to what extent can your party succeed in polls?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: That is upto Allah and that is for the people of the state to decide.

Greater Kashmir: Will you support BJP if it needs support of your party after elections or the party comes with an offer to support them?

Ghulam Nabi Azad: No. Why should I support the BJP. They know. I cannot go there and they cannot come to me. We do not suit each other. I said it publicly that BJP cannot help me in J&K in one vote and I cannot help them in one vote. All those ignorant people who do not know J&K politics,  I said their constituency is totally different, my constituency is totally different. Not that Hindu- Muslim. My constituency is secular. In that I get Hindu vote, Sikh vote, Muslim vote and Christian vote.

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