Interview

Centre’s attitude responsible for state of affairs: Azad

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.  

Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad has been helming the opposition space in a Parliament which is seeing the first single party majority government in over three decades. As what is expected to be an acrimonious Budget Session approaches, he speaks to Nistula Hebbar and Mehboob Jeelani on his expectations from the session, from Prime Minister Modi and recent controversies….

The Prime Minister had called an all party meeting in the midst of what is turning out to a tense standoff between the government and opposition over JNU. What happened at the meeting?

Well, right off the bat I want to say that as an Indian I strongly condemn the anti-India slogans raised by a group of boys, who may or may not have been students. There are however a huge number of students who have other grievances, who are nationalists and pro-India, both Hindus and Muslim, but nobody is willing to listen to them. What I said inside the meeting was that the government is responsible for the state of affairs. Now today something happens in Hyderabad or in Delhi, or in West Bengal, this would have not happened had the government of India stopped and reined in its governors, its Union ministers, its members of Parliament, its party functionaries who were giving hate speeches, hate write ups.

These issues were raised by all political parties from time to time, both inside and outside Parliament, but the government did not take any action. Now, we have a section of boys who are raising these issues, inspite of our condemnation, and now the government chooses to react? If they had risen to the occasion in earlier times and controlled the behaviour of their own people we would not be in this position. The partisan attitude of the government of condoning wrong behaviour from its own people has emboldened others. I wouldn’t differentiate much between in raising anti-India slogans, and hate speeches as they divide India more. Action should be taken against those boys who raised the slogans but also against the BJP’s own people who are dividing the country by their utterances and their day today functioning.

On whose instructions are the Delhi police and its commissioner working? On whose instruction was Kanhaiya Kumar arrested and a sedition case was slapped against him? On whose instruction was O P Sharma not arrested, or Vikram Chauhan who is less a lawyer more a goon not touched.

What was the Prime Minister’s response?

We had decided to support the government in running the Parliament but looking at these incidents, in Hyderabad and in Delhi, we cannot be held responsible.

The Prime Minister did not say anything. He just said that he had come to hear out the other leaders.

What do you think is the defining characteristic of this government?

I really haven’t been able to figure out what they want to achieve. If you talk about of Make in India or development, the unity of the country and social harmony is the most important contributory factor to it. The government has done exactly the opposite.

There has been a progressive increase in the index of opposition unity in the last few sessions, will you be able to hold it over issues like Goods and Services Tax (GST) where you are isolated.

We have not discussed GST in the meeting called by the Prime Minister. By and large we had assured the government that we are for the passage of Bills, but we are interested in discussing the issues before the country. Issues have over taken the Bills, and are increasing every day.

It is being said that Rahul Gandhi’s visit to JNU only attracted a sharp attack against him by not just the Right Wing, but also the fact that there would be no political dividend for him in JNU.

It is not a question of just one university. I have said it earlier too, that there is a modus operandi behind what is happening in Indian universities. Whether it is Delhi or Hyderabad and even in West Bengal. The BJP and RSS want to polarise campuses, defame student unions other than the ABVP, thereby create a situation where they can project it as most nationalist, and dub others as anti-nationals.

There may have been 10 or 15 boys in that incident in JNU, who may have raised slogans against India, we don’t know whether they were students of that university. What about 1000s of other students who are being branded because of this.

As for nationalism, where was the RSS or Jan Sangh at the time of the freedom struggle? Have you heard the story of the camel and the tent? In our case, we are the owners of the tent of patriotism, the secular tent, having preserved it in heat and rain, and the BJP is the camel that is trying to appropriate the tent from us when good days are there.

As leader of opposition you have been observing Prime Minister Narendra Modi from close quarters for the last 20 months. Have you figured him out?

If you look at what Prime Minister Modi talks about, it is mostly about India’s growth, development, foreign affairs, trying to befriend many heads of other governments. And yet his government stumbles from one controversy to another. I feel that talking of growth is actually secondary, his primary responsibility as head of the government is to win the confidence of all sections of people, regions, religions across the country. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is not focused on that. Either he has not understood the complexity or the country, or he doesn’t want to.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 3:46:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/full-text-of-the-interview-with-ghulam-nabi-azad/article8253470.ece

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