As Ghulam Nabi Azad jumped ship and joined the exodus of leaders who have exited from the sinking Congress, the Urdu press took a dim view of Azad’s move, framing it as a classic instance of rapacious politicians indulging in self-seeking aggrandisement. While holding that the drifting 136-year-old grand old party must do soul-searching in light of Azad’s devastating critique and apply correctives, the leading Urdu dailies disapproved of his vitriolic, no-holds-barred tirade against Rahul Gandhi. Reeling off a plethora of key posts and assignments in the organisation and governments that the Congress allocated to Azad over the last 50 years, they questioned his bid to desert a haemorrhaging Congress at a time when the idea of India is at stake, which makes it incumbent, they maintained, on all secular, progressive, and liberal forces to unite to save it. Seeing in Azad’s move, made just ahead of the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, a preference for personal interest over principles, expediency over ideology, they referred to his camaraderie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and highlighted the latter’s teary-eyed farewell to him in the Rajya Sabha.
Roznama Rashtriya Sahara
Commenting on Ghulam Nabi Azad’s move to sever his five-decade-old bonds with the Congress and single out Rahul Gandhi for the existential crisis gripping the party, the Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on August 27, invokes Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the leading lights of India’s freedom movement, stating that Maulana Azad was elected as the Indian National Congress president twice. A champion of syncretic, pluralistic Indian nationhood, Maulana Azad, who never compromised on his unrelenting advocacy of the Hindu-Muslim unity, once said that “Siasat ke seene mein dil nahi hota (Politics is heartless),” the daily says. “Maulana Azad’s remarkable line has always proved to be true, especially involving his own Congress leaders, who have continued to desert the beleaguered party since its loss of power in 2014, mainly defecting to the BJP to satiate their lust of power… Today, Ghulam Nabi Azad has also registered his name on the expanding list of these opportunist leaders.”
It notes that in his explosive five-page resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Azad has bitterly blamed Rahul for everything that has been ailing the Congress, from sidelining all senior and experienced leaders to demolishing the entire consultative mechanism, to letting a coterie of inexperienced sycophants and even his PCs and guards run the party affairs. Azad even questioned Sonia’s leadership, telling her that she was just a nominal figurehead and that under her and Rahul’s presidentship the party lost 39 of the total 49 Assembly polls during 2014-22, it says.
What more izzat (respect) Azad expected from the Congress that led to his resignation is for him to spell out, the daily writes, but the party gave the 73-year-old leader respect and posts in abundance, making him its Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs multiple times, giving him key positions in governments and the organisation, appointing him Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Union minister in all its governments since 1980s, and to the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2014 to 2021.
As a pivot of the dissident G-23 group too, Azad had vowed that he will not quit the Congress while maintaining their objective to effect reforms in the tottering party, the edit says. “It is to be seen now whether he floats his new party but what is certain is that he will pave the way for the BJP to clinch the J&K Assembly polls to be held in the next few months. This will be the first election in J&K after scrapping of Article 370 in August 2019. The ties between the National Conference and the PDP are strained now, pushing their Gupkar Alliance to the brink. Against this backdrop, Azad’s party would impact the political equations and the polls. In effect, he would emerge as a key splitter of secular votes and boost the BJP’s prospects in the state, for which he would be rewarded by the saffron party,” it writes. “Azad will not get the izzat anywhere that he always got from the Congress,” it says, adding that he has also proved Maulana Azad right that politics is a “heartless” game marked by disloyalty, betrayal and ruthlessness.
In its leader on August 26, the Bengaluru-based Salar writes on the politics of hate, saying the arrest of the Telangana BJP leader, T Raja Singh, for his alleged derogatory remarks against the Prophet and his subsequent suspension by the BJP has put the spotlight back on BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, who were suspended and expelled, respectively, by the saffron party over similar hate remarks that set off a global storm, sparking outrage in many countries, particularly the Islamic world, which India’s external affairs ministry struggled to contain. It points out that the Indian Constitution and laws prohibit bids to hurt the sentiments of the followers of any religion. A habitual offender, Raja Singh, was banned by Facebook in September 2020, that said he violated its “policy prohibiting those that promote or engage in violence and hate from having a presence on our platform”. He was arrested, released on bail, and then arrested again amid widespread protests in Hyderabad.
“The point is who is patronising such elements as part of their cynical designs to grab power by vitiating the country’s atmosphere, injecting poison into society, and driving a wedge between different communities. This must be dealt with firmly. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has cautioned that some people, in the name of religion or any other belief, are creating animosity and mistrust between communities, which not only affects the whole country but also the world,” the daily writes. “From our energy needs to our UN Security Council aspirations, we need the support and cooperation of the entire international community including Muslim countries. Our philosophy of respect for all religions is acknowledged globally, and it is a tragedy that some of our own people are hell-bent on undermining this great legacy.”
In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi called for “five resolutions” for the next 25 years to make India a developed nation, the editorial notes. “Will leaders like Raja Singh be helpful in achieving this goal? There is a need to launch a national movement against the politics of communalism and hate, even as the onus is more on the ruling BJP to clamp down on those looking to tear the multi-faith, diverse country’s social fabric… Temporary political gains may cost the country its long-term interests. And the offence of those spreading poison white assuming public positions is far graver. The Modi-led BJP dispensation must understand it.”
An editorial page column “Aajkal (Nowadays)” in the Mumbai-based Urdu Times on August 29 takes a look at the unravelling of the Congress, saying that the party which steered the country for decades has been devastated by dissension and desertions. The piece, headlined “Congress party ke mustaqbil par sawalia nishan (A question mark over Congress’s future)”, by Naseem Ansari points out that before party heavyweight Ghulam Nabi Azad’s departure a slew of leaders quit the Congress in recent past, who include Jitin Prasada, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kapil Sibal and Jaiveer Shergill among others. It notes that they chose to walk out of the Congress when it has been without power for eight years and struggling for its survival, pointing out that while enjoying power in the party or its governments they never found any faults with its policy or performance or organisational structures. “This is also true that the Congress and its leadership have weakened. The party leadership has been dragging its feet from taking vital decisions. It does not have a full-time president…At this stage, the party urgently needs to draw up an action plan and swiftly take to field to execute it, otherwise the question mark over the party’s fate may turn into a full stop,” the column says.
In its second edit on August 28, headlined “Modi bamuqabala Kejriwal (Modi versus Kejriwal)”, the Hyderabad-based Siasat states that political circles across the country are hotting up in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. The BJP has made a head start in making poll preparations, aiming to pull off a hat-trick. It seems while consolidating its pole position, the saffron party is also keen on picking its challenger, the daily says. “The BJP does not want a contest that would see the party pitted against a united Opposition. Perhaps this is why it has been turning its focus on the Aam Aadmi Party to ensure the emergence of Arvind Kejriwal as Modi’s challenger,” it writes. Nitish Kumar’s exit from the NDA upset the BJP’s calculations amid talks that the Bihar Chief Minister could become the joint Opposition’s prime ministerial face, it says. “Swinging into action, the BJP has stepped up attempts to see that the 2024 polls turn into a Modi versus Kejriwal affair, and even the AAP has taken the bait and got involved in it, which is part of the ruling party’s election strategy so that it would not have to lock horns with a united Opposition.”