Azad's 'Mann Ki Baat' gets Congress into a tizzy

‘Enough is enough. Now, he is hurting where it hurts the most. However, the dilemma, both for the Congress leadership as well as for the J&K unit leaders, is his display of shadow-boxing. He is not disrespectful to the party president and he is not speaking openly against the party. He is talking about the strengthening of the party, yet in the same breath he is singing praises of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi – bête noire of Congress and its top leadership. How does it warrant an action against him? This is the predicament of all.’

This is the view of majority of Congress leaders in J&K, with reference to recent developments and utterances of one of the tallest leaders of the party and the former CM, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

This assertion finds a resonance, both in the pro-Azad and anti-Azad camps. Yet no senior leader wants to come on record against him. In fact, they are picking their clues from the central leadership which, too, is treading a very cautious path to escape any embarrassment or split by washing dirty-linen in the public and that too during election season.

No wonder, JKPCC president G A Mir, who rushed to New Delhi probably to give a first-hand appraisal of these upsetting developments to the top leadership, too has opted for a guarded reaction. “What happened on February 27 should not have happened but there was still hope that Azad Sahib was speaking for J&K’s people but he quashed all hopes on February 28 by praising the Prime Minister. I’m here for a routine meeting, have not spoken to party high command about Azad Sahib,” Mir averred.

Nevertheless, in the backdrop of twists and turns over the weekend, the spectre is clear – Congress – the grand-old party of Indian politics, is finding itself in the thick of uncertainty.

So far nothing unusual for this over 100-year old party.

Only quirky twist this time is – its connection to J&K, to which all protagonists (of the game) belong and from where its script derives its inspiration.

Congress’ sequel to this game unfolded last weekend, when Azad, after getting an emotional adieu from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Upper House, paid his maiden visit to his home ‘state’ (now a Union Territory). He landed in Jammu on February 26 and thus followed a string of controversies.

First controversy erupted on February 27 with the participation of G-23 (as the dissenter Congress group is being referred to) in “Shanti Sammelan” of Gandhi Global Family of which Azad is the national president. Members of G-23 and senior Congress leaders mainly Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma used the occasion to criticise the leadership, though obliquely, for denying yet another term to Azad to the Upper House. To many political observers, it seemed like a scripted move. JKPCC president and other loyalists of Gandhi family stayed away.

Many kept wondering, did G-23 derive its inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, who had seen a ray of hope in Kashmir decades ago, to raise a bugle of rebellion with a smoke-screen? As one of its members also chose to give a new flavour to the term (G-23) by saying, “It means Gandhis.”

As if that was not enough, the very next day, Azad spilled beans by praising the Prime Minister, the sworn enemy of Gandhis, who too proudly flaunt their J&K roots. Probably he would have simply reciprocated the Prime Minister’s gesture (in the Rajya Sabha) but this certainly created flutters in the corridors of power and party.

Azad or for that matter even other members of G-23 did not utter even a single word against the party leadership directly. So far they only resorted to shadow-boxing. They slammed the leadership yet with a facade.

Probably this is the reason why the senior Congress leaders of J&K unit did not openly protest or speak a word against Azad. Some youth leaders did protest against him in Jammu but officially speaking, the party was quick to distance itself from it.

Still many in the party wonder: do the recent developments indicate the saffronisation of Azad, despite his resolute denial?

As a JKPCC leader, who owes his allegiance to the top leadership, avers, “Azad is weighing pros and cons where to go and what to do as his Rajya Sabha term has expired. One should see all the developments in the light of these turns of events. Generally these are the acts of turncoats only who are always on a lookout for greener pastures. This amounts to an act aimed at hoodwinking the leadership. But I don’t think that the people like Azad so easily hoodwink the leadership because he has long been in politics.”

Both the party leadership and Azad are engaged in a game – who winks first?

However many are still hopeful that Kashmir will never witness “black snow.”

Former JKPCC president Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz is one among them as he says, “I would not like to give you a broader comment on Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad’s remarks in Jammu. But I’ve a feeling that certain utterances of Mr Azad have created this notion in the minds of some people, who heard him saying things in Jammu at this point of time, that he is not happy with the leadership.”

“That situation can create a wrong impression and he’ll be seen in a poor light by the general Congress workers. So my feeling is that he should do justice to his own position as he has been a senior person. He is senior leader in the party. Danger is that he will be misinterpreted. Some people will show him in poor light because his utterances will be misinterpreted. Some people are interpreting his utterances in Jammu in a way that an impression is gaining ground as if he is moving closer to the Prime Minister and is developing cold feet vis-a-vis the Congress party leadership,” Soz added.