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J&K: Ghulam Nabi Azad Stirs Controversy by Saying National Conference Trying to Meet BJP Leaders

The DPAP president, who was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2022, is the only senior politician from Jammu and Kashmir who has been allowed to retain his ministerial bungalow after the erstwhile state was downgraded into a union territory in 2019.
Ghulam Nabi Azad. Photo: X/@ghulamnazad

New Delhi: Former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has triggered a political storm in J&K after claiming that the National Conference (NC) was trying to broker a secret meeting of its leaders with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.

The NC president, Farooq Abdullah, hit back at Azad, asking him to reveal the names of “his agents at the residence of PM and home minister” while the party’s vice-president, Omar Abdullah, insinuated that the former Congress leader was a ‘ghulam’ (slave) of the saffron party.

Speaking with the India Today network, Azad, who floated the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), a new political outfit in J&K, after parting ways from the Congress, claimed that the NC was “seeking time” to meet the BJP’s central leaders.

“They are seeking time (for the meeting) at 11 or 12 at night. Why so? Why not during daytime? It looks suspicious,” Azad told the TV channel, without taking any names.

When the reporter suggested that the NC leaders were seeking an appointment with Modi and Shah, Azad replied: “Let’s just say central leaders. Why are you saying it so openly.”

Azad also criticised the NC president for his alleged doublespeak while accusing him of using religion for political gains.

“Nobody is more secular than me in India. But I won’t go to temples to appease the Hindu voters. I won’t abuse India or Hindus to garner the votes of Muslims,” said Azad, in a veiled dig at the senior Abdullah whose video clips singing Hindi bhajans are popular on social media platforms.

The DPAP president, who was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2022, is the only senior politician from Jammu and Kashmir who has been allowed to retain his ministerial bungalow after the erstwhile state was downgraded into a union territory in 2019.

Azad was also the only surviving former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir who was not put under preventive detention when Article 370 was read down by the BJP-led Union government.

The other three – Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah – were detained under the draconian Public Safety Act for months. Azad alleged that there were “rumours” in 2019 that the NC leaders urged the BJP leadership to keep them under detention after Article 370 was read down to avoid public wrath.

Lashing out at the former Congress leader, Omar claimed that Azad had “begged” his party for a Rajya Sabha seat in 2015. He also alleged that Azad was hobnobbing with the BJP to damage the NC’s electoral prospects in the Chenab Valley, his home turf.

The remarks by Azad also angered the NC camp, with all top leaders and the NC’s media cell supervisors, including the chief spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq and the party’s additional spokesperson Sarah Hayat Shah, besides other lower rung activists, taking to social media to denounce Azad.

“Just a minor observation. I can comprehend novices and the ungrateful speaking out (though he falls into that category too- Twice helped by NC to become Raj Sabha MP), but I fail to grasp how a Union minister and former CM has stooped to such depths. It’s not just shameless; it surpasses that. I wish he had refrained from engaging in corruption altogether, no one would have ever threatened him with jail or eviction,” Sadiq posted on X.

The Peoples Democratic Party also joined the political slugfest with Iltija Mufti, daughter and media advisor of the party president Mehbooba Mufti, posting a tweet by India Today which showed a picture of Azad and his purported quote: ‘Abdullahs secretly meet PM Modi at night: Ghulam Nabi’.

“Night Rendezvous” Iltija posted on X with an owl emoji and a yellow face with a hand on mouth, indicating shock or surprise. The tweet, which had 42k impressions with over 100 retweets and likes at the time when this story was drafted, agitated the NC’s social media activists even further.

One NC activist replied to Iltija with a photo which showed her standing between Mehbooba and Amit Shah at the wedding reception of the latter’s son, Jay Shah, in the national capital on February 16, 2015, a month before the PDP formed the alliance with the BJP.

Another activist replied with a photo showing Mehbooba and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi sharing a light moment while L.K. Advani and Amit Shah are in the background. The photo was taken on March 1, 2015 when the PDP-BJP coalition government was sworn in with late Mufti Sayeed as the chief minister.

Azad’s remarks came barely days after a BJP leader from Jammu, Devendra Rana, claimed that NC leaders had offered to form a coalition government with the BJP in J&K after the 2014 assembly election and again in 2018 when Mufti passed away.

Rana claimed that the saffron party, however, turned down the offers on both occasions.

“Let me tell you with confidence that before and after the abrogation of Article 370, the NC leadership wanted to have some kind of tie up with the BJP and had tried to reach out to it. But such efforts of NC were rejected by the BJP again,” said Rana, a former NC leader and political advisor to Omar Abdullah who joined the BJP in 2021.

Earlier, Omar told reporters in Srinagar that the party, which is part of the INDIA alliance, was going to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha election on its own in three constituencies of Kashmir and Pir Panjal. The statement had not gone down well with the PDP, which is also part of the INDIA alliance.

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