After Modi’s salvo, Congress distances itself from ‘Afzal sympathiser’ Nizami

Addressing a rally for Gujarat elections, Narendra Modi said ‘Congress worker’ Nizami had questioned his ancestry.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 09, 2017 22:27 IST
Toufiq Rashid and Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Toufiq Rashid and Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Congress,Narendra Modi,Salman Nizami
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being garlanded at an election campaign rally in Lunawada town of Panchmahal district in Gujarat on Saturday. (PTI)

Banihal resident Salman Nizami has an image of him interacting with Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as his Facebook display picture. Scroll down, and one comes across photographs that show him addressing what seems like a Congress rally.

A post dated December 6 states that Nizami was at a “public rally in favour of Gujarat leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil in Mandvi”, and makes the claim of a “Rahul Gandhi wave” in Gujarat.

And yet, the Congress is trying to distance itself from Nizami. “We checked our booth-wise list and found that he isn’t even a primary member of the party,” state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir told HT.

These denials came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently dug up old tweets of Nizami calling for “azadi”, the term used to denote the Kashmiri separatist’s wish to overthrow Indian rule, and dubbed him as a supporter of executed terrorist Afzal Guru. He also claimed to have uncovered several questions alleged posed by Nizami vis-a-vis his lineage. Unwilling to take any chances in the Gujarat elections, the Congress quickly went into damage control mode.

So, who exactly is Nizami? Sources said the Kashmiri dabbled in a number of vocations – including journalism – before his brief stint in politics. Even Mir acknowledged that Nizami was associated with the Congress between 2014 and 2015.

“Salman Nizami was engaged as the party’s publicity secretary in March 2015. However, he was given a show cause notice in September that year after we found that a social media message he posted was not in line with the party’s policy. When Nizami failed to respond in 15 days, he was suspended,” the state Congress chief said.

Mir claimed even the state unit of the party disassociated itself from him after that. “If one takes photographs with Congress leaders by posing as journalist or an NGO activist, how can the party be blamed? He can go to Gujarat by himself, but that wouldn’t make him the party’s campaigner,” he said, alleging that many cases of fraud have been filed against Nizami.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma made a similar contention. “If Nizami has said anything derogatory against the Prime Minister, it should not be attributed to the Congress. Whatever he has said was highly condemnable,” he said.

Another party leader dubbed Nizami as a “virtual non-entity” in politics. “He has not done any work in the state Congress. Getting photographed with senior party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, and going on excursions in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat in the name of campaigning proves nothing,” he asserted.

Nizami hit the headlines when Modi named him as an Afzal Guru supporter affiliated to the Congress at an election rally in Lunavada, Mahisagar. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also shared screenshots of his Twitter account in 2013, when he allegedly posted slogans in support of Guru.

The Banihal resident, however, claimed that his Twitter account was hacked. “I have now protected my account because they are using my name to post anything. Even earlier I had pointed out that these were not my tweets,” he said, adding that he would continue to fight the BJP’s “divisive politics” whether he was part of the Congress or not.

Nizami claimed that he was being targeted because of his identity. “Whenever a Kashmiri tries to go mainstream, this is what happens to him. People dig up dirt on him and call him anti-national. People hacked my account and posted the tweets when I wrote articles against terrorism in 2013,” he said.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 21:31 IST