Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has said he has no intention to float a new party in Jammu and Kashmir with a caveat that no one knows what happens next in politics.
A series of meetings held by Mr Azad across Jammu and Kashmir has fuelled speculation that he is forming a new party. What has added to the buzz is 20 of his loyalists resigning from Congress posts.
Mr Azad said the rallies are meant to revive political activities that had stopped after Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its statehood and special status.
Mr Azad, who has held key positions in the Congress for the past over four decades, said unlike the time of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, there is no place for criticism today.
“No one is challenging the leadership. Perhaps, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Ji had given me too much freedom to question when things were going wrong. They would never mind criticism. They would not see it as offensive. Today the leadership sees it as offensive,” he told NDTV after addressing a public meeting at Ramban.
Mr Azad said Indira Gandhi told him “keep it up” when he refused to appoint two people she recommended as general secretaries in the Youth Congress.
“When Rajiv ji joined politics, Indira Gandhi called both of us and told Rajiv ji that Ghulam Nabi can even say no to me, but that NO doesn’t mean disobeying or disrespect, that’s for the good of the party. Today, No one is ready to listen to that no. For saying no you become nobody today,” he said.
While saying that he is not floating his own party, he added, “No one can say what will happen next in politics, like no one knows when he will die. In politics, no one can predict what will happen next, but I have no intention to form a party.”
He said he wanted to quit politics, but decided to continue for “lakhs of supporters”.
On the series of public meetings, Mr Azad said he only wants to revive political activities.
“There is a disconnect between people and leadership for the last over two years. Since August 5, 2019, when the state was downgraded, (Article) 370 was revoked and all political activities stopped, thousands were jailed. Those outside jails were not allowed to carry out political activities.”
“So I found a window and started these activities, thankfully other parties are doing it now. We started and woke them up as well,” he said.
On resignations in Congress and absence of J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir in his meetings, Mr Azad said perhaps he can’t match his speed and stamina.
“For me, everyone is a Congressman, when I am in J&K, I don’t talk about only the Congress party or a particular section of people. There are some who work less. I have a habit of working more. I don’t move like a tortoise. I move with speed,” said Mr Azad.
He said he has the same energy that he had 40 years back and can hold even 16 rallies a day.
Mr Azad said he is not willing to become the J&K Congress president even as his loyalists have demanded the removal of the incumbent.