When politics gets lively in J&K, it helps the ruling side as well as the opposition to have the seasoned Kashmiri politician Ghulam Nabi Azad with them in Lutyen Delhi’s power play. While many thought the former chief minister of J&K would finally be uprooted from the political epicentre of the National Capital after his marathon Parliamentary run came to an end last February — an occasion that PM Modi made memorable by giving a tearful farewell to his ‘friend” and outgoing leader of the opposition — the famed Congress political survivor not only got to keep his 5 South Avenue Lane official bungalow till now, he is also set to get an extended stay.
It’s happening amid the suspense on the course the J&K politics will take in the near future, about the role Azad may be destined to play in it and whether the Congress leadership will again bring Azad –– who led 23 Congress leaders to write to Sonia Gandhi seeking functional reforms in the GoP –– to the Rajya Sabha from the upcoming slots in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra when Congress’ internal equations are delicately poised.
If post-RS retirement, Azad was allowed to stay at the government bungalow during the past months amid the national crisis over Covid-19, he is now set to get a formal extended stay for more months on security grounds as he is among those politicians with maximum threat perception, guarded with Z-plus security. Azad recently moved a formal request in this regard.
“Yes, with regard to extension of the house, I had written a letter to Chairman, Rajya Sabha house committee, for extension for some time. Being in the Z-plus security category, I have sought extension till I find a suitable accommodation on rent at an appropriate place keeping in view the security concerns,” said Azad when ET sought his comments.
The 5, South Avenue Lane, has been Azad’s Delhi powerhouse for about quarter of a century (he retained it even during his stint as CM of J&K), famous as much for the power-plays it witnessed as for his famously well-kept garden, to which the PM referred to during his farewell speech for Azad. PM Modi had said, “Do not feel like you (Azad) are no longer in the House. My doors are always open for you. I will need your suggestions. I will not let you retire”.
Though this government has not been very liberal in allowing retired/defeated MPs to retain their official accommodation, it seems to be making an exemption to Azad, due to his political stature and security requirement. Incidentally, Priyanka Vadra had to vacate her Lutyen’s bungalow when her SPG cover was downgraded to an Z category.