JAMMU — Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad addressed his highly-anticipated political rally in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, announcing the start of his new outfit, after breaking away from his five-decade-long association with the grand old party.
“I am a Common man, now,” he said at the rally, attacking the Congress and that the party had lost its touch ‘on the ground’.
“Congress was made by us by our blood, not by computers, not by Twitter. People are trying to defame us but their reach is limited to computers and tweets. That is the reason Congress is nowhere to be seen on the ground,” Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
As the leader had reached Jammu on Sunday morning for his first rally after leaving Congress, he said that his ‘national-level’ party would be firstly focussed on ‘upcoming J&K polls’.
The 73-year-old Azad, who had earlier ended his decades-old relationship with Congress, blamed ‘unfortunate circumstances’ behind his leaving the party. He also expressed hope in his aspirations for Jammu and Kashmir, saying it had long been his dream to make the region ‘happy’.
“From 2005 to 2008, I was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. But some companions had left in the middle of my term, so my agenda could not be fulfilled at that time. We had an agenda to make a happy Jammu and Kashmir. Those who were with me in the cabinet at that time, all the experienced leaders and capable people, MLAs and ministers, they all came with us. And together we will fulfill that unfinished agenda,” a buoyant Azad told news18.
According to Azad, the “dream of the prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir, which had taken-off”, had reached halfway, “but some people did not like that happiness.”
In a subtle attack on the PDP, he said some people had not liked the positive changes as they thought it would not get them votes.
Talking about the highly-anticipated announcement of his new outfit, Azad confirmed reports, and said the new party “formed will be a national-level one.”
“But we are in no hurry for national aspirations, as it (the party) will start from Jammu and Kashmir. Elections can happen in Jammu and Kashmir at any time,” he said.
“We are seeing the condition of Congress in the whole country since last 8 years; in the 49 assembly elections that were held, it lost 39. Now, out of those 49, only two states have Congress. Before the rest even go, we thought that we would build our house. In which all will keep bricks, no one will keep sand. Because at the national level only ‘sand-keepers’ currently exist, but only sand does not build houses,” he said.
The road along the Jammu airport has been donning huge hoardings and banners welcoming Azad. At the main venue, seating arrangements have been made for over 20,000 people.
“All those who resigned in support of Azad will be present at the public meeting,” GM Saroori, a former minister, said.
He also said that over 3,000 supporters of Azad, representing different sections of society, have expressed desire to join hands with him at the public meeting.
“It is very difficult to manage such a large number of joinings we have worked out a formula to make them raise their hands in support of Azad to welcome the new entrants,” he said.
He said people from different political parties are also in touch with them and “we are expecting a tsunami of support in favour of Azad in coming times.”
“People have tested Azad during his chief ministership (from November 2005 to July 2008) and are eagerly waiting for his return as the next chief minister, he said.
He said the Azad-led party would be a reality on the political map of Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the next Assembly elections which are likely to be held after the completion of the ongoing process of special summary revision of the electoral rolls on November 25.
Azad quit the Congress, a party he has been associated with for over five-decades on August 26, terming the party “comprehensively destroyed”.
Since Azad’s resignation, a flurry of top leaders and executives have quit the party and vowed to extend their support to Azad.
Former deputy chief minister, eight former ministers, a former MP, nine legislators besides a large number of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, municipal corporators and grassroots workers from across Jammu and Kashmir have all jumped ship and joined the Azad camp.
Azad has been under severe criticism from the Congress after his pubic exit. Earlier this week, Azad took a swipe at Congress which had insinuated that he was cozying up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he left the party.
Congress alleged that his “DNA has been Modi-fied” and several leaders attacked him citing Modi’s speech in Rajya Sabha in February last year in which the teary-eyed prime minister had praised Azad as a “true friend”.
Azad delivered a stern response to the remarks and said meeting and talking to political rivals does not change one’s DNA.