JAMMU: Three weeks after PM Narendra Modi‘s teary-eyed farewell speech for him in the Rajya Sabha, Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday returned the compliment by lavishing praise on the former as someone who “doesn’t hide his true self” and remains proud of his humble antecedents.
“I am from a village and feel proud about it. Even our PM hails from a village and very proudly says that he was a nobody — that he used to wash utensils and sell tea. We are political rivals, but I appreciate the fact that he is true to his roots. I like a lot of things about many leaders and he is one of them,” Azad, a former chief minister of the erstwhile state of J&K, said at an event in Jammu. “Those who hide their true selves are living in a bubble,” he said.
Since exiting as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Azad has been active as a member of Congress’s “G23”, comprising senior functionaries who have been critical of the grand old party’s functioning and style of leadership.
Alluding to PM Modi, who had spoken of Azad in the Rajya Sabha as someone whose counsel he would always welcome, the Congress stalwart said, “A man should be proud (of who he is and where he comes from). I have travelled the world and stayed in 5-star hotels, 7-star hotels…but when I sit with people from my village, irrespective of whether they are wearing washed clothes or not, there is a fragrance that makes the experience special.”
Azad, who was speaking at a programme organised by the Gurjar Desh Charitable Trust, is from a remote village in Jammu’s Doda district.
On February 9, Modi had said of Azad in the Rajya Sabha,”The person who will replace Ghulam Nabi ji (as leader of the opposition) will have difficulty matching his work because he was not only concerned about his party but also about the country and the House.”
The PM added, “Do not feel like you are no longer in the House. My doors are always open for you. I will need your suggestions. I will not let you retire.”
While keeping the unlikely mutual admiration society going, Azad didn’t hold back in his criticism of the Union Territory administration and the Centre. “There is a hollow ring to the Centre’s claims about development of J&K. Everything is on paper. In reality, the people are being looted in the name of tax. Tax should be on income, but income in J&K is zero now,” he told reporters later.