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'Equal growth for all regions'

Ever since the Congress decided to enforce the power sharing agreement with the PDP, Ghulam Nabi Azad is a much sought after man.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2005 18:39 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra

What is going to be your biggest challenge when you go to J&K?
To restore normalcy. To bring everyone into the political mainstream and the democratic process. Let me tell you at the outset that I am not in favour of breaking any party. My endeavour will be to strengthen the Congress and also sincerely support our allies. But at the same time, I will give full opportunity to those political parties and groups who do not have any representation in the assembly in order to reach out to the people. No one political party can bring normalcy. It has to be a collective effort irrespective of difference of ideology and irrespective of religion and region.

It is said that you and Mufti Mohammad Sayed do not enjoy good relations. How do you propose to carry on with him?
This is far from truth. It is not only political relations but I can claim that we have personal and family relations. I have known him since my college days and since then whether he was in the Congress or outside it, we have maintained personal and family relations. There is no change in that.

Many Kashmir watchers believe that the National Conference has been the greatest beneficiary of the change of guard. Do you agree?
There is no reason why the NC should be happy and they should be beneficiaries. Or for that matter no reason for anyone to be happy or unhappy. My priorities are different. Apart from the implementation of the CMP, I believe there should be normalcy and equal development in all the three regions of the state keeping in view the sensitivities of each region. We should respect the sentiments of the people and find solutions to solve them. There should be no alienation of anybody.

How will you dispel the impression that the Congress was not a major player in the Valley?
This is wrong. We respect the sentiments of the people of the valley and want to find lasting solution to the outstanding problems wherein everybody feels secure.I will like to tell the truth to the people of my state and will be frank in telling them what was possible and what was not possible instead of keeping them in dark. I do not wish to exploit the religious and regional sentiments of the people. I will also like to clarify that my mission is not to convert the people into Congressmen but to serve them. If they find my work good, they have the option to support my party.

You are a Kashmiri speaking leader from outside the Valley. Will you have acceptance there?
Not a single individual or voter or single newspaper out of 100 odd newspapers which come out of the valley has during the past one week mentioned about my origin. This issue is not in the minds of the people. Such things are only talked about by politicians and not by people. Kashmiris do not consider this to be any handicap. I went to school in Doda but did my college and university education in Srinagar. My family home is also in Srinagar and I started my political career from there.

How will you provide the healing touch to the people there?
There cannot be a better person than me and a better party than the Congress which can talk about the healing touch. It was part of the Congress manifesto which I presented in 2002. The Congress is for ending the agony of the people. The pain of the people must be understood and assuaged and the wounds that have scarred society in J&K must be subject to the healing touch.

What are your plans for improving the security environment in the state?
When we talk of restoring normalcy, it is related to security. When people join the main stream they will realise the truth and know what is possible and what is not possible. People must know what is happening around them and in the world. What Pakistan was doing earlier and is now changing track in the backdrop of a changed world scenario.

There is an impression that the PM wanted the Mufti to stay on. Is he backing you now?
This is not true. There has been no ambiguity in the minds of any Congress leader including the Prime Minister in respect of the agreement on change of guard. If anyone has to be held responsible for not making things clear, it is me. The media had been asking me since the last one year when the change will take place and I would reply that we should wait for an appropriate time (November 2, 2005). I did not wish to make announcements before the time had arrived. This would have weakened the Chief Minister and he would have lost his effectiveness. I wanted the CM to be strong and in command till his last day in office.

Mufti Saheb was an MLC for nearly two years and it was only after his daughter Mehbooba went to Parliament that he chose to contest the assembly seat. Will you choose the same path?
I have a number of options. For first six months I do not have to be a member of either house. Many of my predecessors have been either MLAs or MLCs from time to time. Apart from Mufti Saheb, even GM Shah was a MLC while being the CM. I will be either a MLC or a MLA from an assembly segment in the state.

First Published: Oct 31, 2005 15:13 IST