Gulam Nabi Azad retired last week from Rajya Sabha. He was the Member of Parliament from Jammu and Kashmir. Three more members of Rajya Sabha retired along with Gulam Nabi Azad however retirement of Azad was significant. Gulam Nabi Azad is a senior leader of Indian National Congress who was first elected to Lok Sabha from Mumbai. Congress party made him Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Under Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, Gulam Nabi Azad had been a strong face of opposition and was officially appointed as Leader of Congress Party in Rajya Sabha. During his retirement, the Prime Minister has made an emotional speech remembering his time as Chief Minister and Leader of opposition. It is very unlikely that Azad will be sent to Rajya Sabha anytime soon especially because of his tussle with Gandhi family over leadership issues. Also, Congress is currently in its worst time and doesn’t have many Rajya Sabha seats in hand. After he retired in this tenure, it seems more like an end of his active Political career. Modi’s farewell speech was important also because while he abrogated Article 370 and changed the status of Jammu and Kashmir from a state to a Union Territory, Azad opposed it fiercely in the parliament. However, no such gesture was shown from the top leadership of Congress apart from a farewell speech by their leader Anand Sharma. In fact, the top Leadership of Congress mocked PM Modi for his gesture to the departing member of parliament. Senior Congress leader and former Central Minister Dr Shashi Tharoor went ahead and called out the emotional farewell to Azad as an ‘artfully crafted performance’. In active politics, no one is a permanent friend or enemy and that’s what Narendra Modi has shown with his speech. In his tenure, he has awarded Padma Awards to leaders of Congress including Tarun Gogoi while have awarded Bharat Ratna to former president Pranab Mukherjee. These gestures have not been reciprocated by Congress party for decades. The last time the Congress party did something like this was when Jawahar Lal Nehru included leaders from all the parties as Minister in his first cabinet.
While Narendra Modi with his efforts and gestures have got freedom, fighters look close with the ideology of BJP including Madan Mohan Malviya, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh while former stalwart politicians from opposition parties including Sardar Patel, B R Ambedkar and Pranab Mukherjee seems closer to BJP than Congress today. Congress Party doesn’t look behind the dynasty and keep on focusing on that despite regular setbacks whereas the BJP is keen to spread its wing and while doing so have adapted the ideologies of those who had ideologically opposed the politics of BJP. This step of BJP has increased its acceptability in states where it had always been weak including North Eastern States and States from South of India. On the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the Modi government remembered Netaji in a big way and celebrated his birthday in Bengal.
On the other hand, no top leader from Congress including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi even wished former Congress President Netaji on Twitter. With Bengal elections so close, opposition cannot do such blunders and then expect to win. These leaders are much bigger than the parties they are affiliated with and must be treated accordingly. Congress was quick to award Bharat Ratna to Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi during their tenure but were hesitant in granting it to B R Ambedkar and Atal Bihari Vajpaye. This not only shows the narrow thinking of Congress but also portrays their lack of apathy towards the idea of India. On the other hand, BJP under Narendra Modi has been quick enough to show respect to the leaders from opposition parties thus claiming their legacy.
Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com