INTERVIEW| There isn’t an iota of democracy in Congress: Ghulam Nabi Azad

Ruling out any alliance with the BJP, Ghulam Nabi Azad says it is the Congress that is giving BJP a free run.
Ghulam Nabi Azad during the launch of his autobiography earlier this week . (Photo| PTI)
Ghulam Nabi Azad during the launch of his autobiography earlier this week . (Photo| PTI)

CHENNAI: Democratic Azad Party founder Ghulam Nabi Azad, whose autobiography ‘Azaad’ has now hit the stands, IN a candid conversation with Preetha Nair,  speaks about his former colleagues in Congress, Kashmir, Adani issue, Opposition parties and other key issues.

The just-concluded Budget session was a washout. Do you think the Opposition was justified in their demand for a JPC on Adani row?
Both sides were not ready to budge from their positions. One problem is at the moment the Opposition is not united. What I have seen this past nine years while I was also an LoP (Leader of Opposition) is that BJP is adamant about not setting up a JPC probe, though we demanded it on several issues. They have flatly refused.  Their policy is not to have a JPC. If the government is adamant about not having a JPC, then the Opposition should have suggested something like a Parliamentary Committee of 20 or 30 members from both sides, headed by  Opposition members. The government can’t say no to everything. So, it should have been decided on the floor.

Knowing that the government will never have JPC, why didn’t you allow Parliament to function?
If Parliament does not function, it is the government that would be the happiest.

Q) The Opposition, including Congress, says Adani- Hindenburg is a critical issue as public sector companies like LIC, and SBI are involved.
But we have other concerns also. We have to define a difference. Is a poor man in the street bothered about Adani? The Adani issue won’t resonate with the voter. How does it affect a farmer in Andhra, Tamil Nadu, or Kashmir?

Why do you think Congress is not doing the right thing by running a campaign against Adani?

I don’t have a phobia of individuals. Some people have had a phobia of Modi and Adani for the last nine years.   Do you think criticism is allowed in BJP? There is not an iota of democracy in Congress.

Do you blame it on the coterie?
Coterie is everywhere. But ultimately the leader should have his mind.

Do You mean Rahul Gandhi?
Naturally. We were also leaders. Coteries were misleading us also. If the leader is guided by the coterie, that means he is nothing.

But you have written Rajiv Gandhi listened to you while making decisions...
When I was the President of IYC, Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister. She sent me two names to be made the general secretaries. In writing, I refused that they cannot be adjusted. If I had said no to Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, the next day I would have not been there. Even Sonia wouldn’t have tolerated it if I said no to the people she recommended. I would still say Sonia Gandhi is amiable. Now the consultation process has entirely derailed.

In your book, you said some excesses might have happened during Emergency, but they were conveniently placed at Indira’s and Sanjay’s doorsteps. Are you defending Mrs Gandhi?
Only two things went wrong in the Emergency.  The Opposition leaders should not have been jailed. And there should not have been a ban on the media. Otherwise, production went up. There were no strikes. There were positive and negative parts. And the negative aspect went against Ms Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi was mostly blamed for the forceful sterilisation drive. Ultimately, it all proved a hoax.

You have written about how you handled the situation in Parliament post-Babri Masjid demolition as a Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
The Opposition wanted the PM to go as they held (Narsimha) Rao responsible for the Babri Masjid demolition. The most important thing was that both the PM and HM were not available while the demolition was taking place. So that was something very, very fishy and very suspicious. Ultimately in the evening, the Cabinet was called. Though we all expressed our anger. Unfortunately, in that routine way, they both went to sleep after lunch, and that was not the time to sleep. I took the opposition into confidence and I told them that let the Home Minister go.  But I could not fulfill the promise because the PM and HM both dodged me.

In your book you have spoken about how you took on Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesari.
During Indiraji’s time, we could give any suggestions.  During Kesari’s and Rao’s time, criticism was tolerated. With the current leadership, if you write one letter, you are out, immediately dropped.

What is your view on abrogation of Article 370?
I would say nothing has been done by the BJP on the Kashmiri Pandits issue. The Congress government has done much more for Pandits. I still hold the view on Article 370 shouldn’t have been abrogated.   

Is there any possibility of allying with the BJP after the elections in J&K?
There is no question of allying with the BJP. It is all made up of the Congress leaders. It’s their brainchild. Congress is helping BJP more than me. BJP is there because of Congress. They are giving BJP a free run by not doing anything. Congress is no different from BJP.

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