New Delhi: Rajya Sabha on Tuesday bid farewell to four retiring members of the Upper House with Deputy Chairman Harivansh heaping lavish praise on the leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, terming him a repository of rich experiences.
The veteran Congress leader and Nazir Ahmed Laway (PDP) will retire on February 15 while the terms of Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) and Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP) will end on February 10.
“It was my fortune that I got to sit next to Ghulam Nabi Azad in the House… He has connected the entire country with Jammu and Kashmir… I have not come across a person like him who has such rich experiences… Have learnt a lot from his guidance, decency, conduct…,” Harivansh said.
Azad’s political stature is unparallel, he said and added that the Congress leader has risen to such a position in national politics from a block level worker in Kashmir.
He appreciated him for the mammoth work in the health sector like National Urban Health Mission and setting up of medical colleges.
Retirement from the house is only a temporary thing and not a break in his chosen path of serving the nation, Harivansh said.
Azad said he is among those lucky people who never went Pakistan and feels proud to be a Hindustani Muslim.
He spoke for almost 28 minutes, quoting several couplets and hoping for restoration of peace in Jammu & Kashmir and return of Kashmiri Pandits back to the valley.
Fayaz in his speech said, “We work for this country. We have taken the flag of the country to villages. It hurts and saddens us when we are called anti-national by the media and others.”
He recalled his journey from Kupwara, near Pakistan border and from the municipal committee there to Rajya Sabha and said he worked for the mainstream and against separatist calls.
He praised the government for the work in the areas of schemes like Ujjwala and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, both of whom were present in the House, to “do justice to people to J&K” by restoring statehood and special status and thereby winning and strengthening their faith.
In his speech, Manhas said: “I come from Kashmir, the mukat mani (crown jewel) of the country, and am sitting among others from the country. I have worked for this mukut mani and will work for it in the future too.”
He said he has visited all parts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and learnt a lot from Modi about conduct in public life.
Another retiring member Laway appealed for restoration of statehood besides rail connectivity.
He remembered his party leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who sent him to this House and said he developed a relationship with all the members and people because he came to Rajya Sabha.
He urged the prime minister and the home minister for human and other resources development work in Jammu & Kashmir saying they have to take care of the union territory because now there would no representation in the House from there.
Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) said that the retiring members would “remain torch bearers for us in future and show us the way forward”.
He said that if his Congress wants to bid farewell to Azad then in that case people would bid farewell to the party not him.
“It is not easy to lose Ghulam Nabi Azad,” he added.
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena) said he could not believe that Azad is retiring from Rajya Sabha.
He suggested that since Azad has seen a long tenure from days of Indira Gandhi to Narendra Modi, he should write an autobiography titled “From Indira to Modi”.
He told the House that the Azad has very rich political experience which is very rare in politics.
Addressing Azad, he said that you would never retire.
Raut also said that there is no dearth of leaders in the Congress, but “Azad Sahib, there are few leaders whom people know across the country”.
He added he would not bid farewell to Azad but wait for him to come back again here in the House.
Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said the name may be Ghulam (slave) but all remained Azad (free).
He said that Azad will always be remembered because “you are a large hearted person”.
He also said that Azad should be elected again to Rajya Sabha and if Congress does not want that then he and his party RPI would do that.
He added that Rajya Sabha needed Azad back.
Abdul Wahab (IUML) thanked Azad for the “wonderful leadership” in the House.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said Azad has a very long and rich experience in various ministries and states.
He also said that Azad is the only person in the party who remained general secretary of all states at different points of time including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana.
Sharma termed Azad as very frank and hardworking.
He said that Azad was always of the view that one should not get personal for ideology and there should not be bitterness on the basis of ideology.
He also said that Azad has risen through the ranks and started from the bottom and reached top position by working hard unlike overnight rise of leaders of today.
Sharma said Azad would play an important role in the elections of Jammu and Kashmir whenever they are held and would continue to provide his services to the nation.
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray (TMC) lauded Azad’s nature and hoped his party renominates him and brings him back in the House.
A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) said J Jayalalithaa had asked him to interact with Azad and other leaders and he learnt a lot from him.
Prasanna Acharya (BJD) said Azad has the ability to befriend everybody in the shortest possible time. He added Kashmir is in his heart and mind and whenever he speaks about Jammu and Kashmir, his emotions come out.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said today was one of the painful moments as he had to speak on the farewell of a member from the house. He said due to the concern of Azad, he has developed friendship with everyone. “The house will be lacklustre in the coming days,” he said, hoping he returns to the House soon.
K R Suresh Reddy (TRS) and Y Vijaisai Reddy (YSR-CP) recalled their association with Azad. Vijaisai Reddy wished that he may contribute his best to the country.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said Kashmir is beautiful and it is represented in the House by beautiful people.
“Ghulam Nabi Azad acted as a bridge whenever there was a deadlock in the House. He is a very calm and polite person. I wonder who will fill the gap in the house. I wish he comes back to the house. This house will be poorer with Azads going. I hope he becomes chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir after its statehood is restored,” he said.
Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU) said Azad has played a great role in this house and wished him good.
Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M) said as leader of opposition, Azad tried to unite the opposition parties but also united them the ruling parties.
“As leader of opposition, he gave us perfect view. He always was a role model for all members. He is not just a leader of the Congress party, but of the entire country. I saw him roar like a lion on August 5, 2019,” he said, recalling the day when Article 370 was revoked in Jammu and Kashmir.
Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) and Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) wished Azad good in the life. PTI