New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi got emotional while bidding farewell to Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad Tuesday as he recalled a phone call by Azad when tourists from Gujarat were killed in a terror attack in Kashmir.
“There was a terrorist attack and eight people in Gujarat were killed. The first call I received was from Ghulam Nabi ji. The call was not just to inform me of the incident, but his tears were not stopping on the phone. It was of concern, like a family member,” said Modi, who had tears in his eyes as he stopped midway during his speech.
Azad was the chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir during the terror attack.
“During that time, Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister. I asked if an aircraft could be arranged to get the dead bodies back home. It was late at night but Mukherjee saab told me not to worry and it would be done. Ghulam Nabi ji called again at night, he was at the airport. Just like someone would worry about a family member, that’s what Azad saab did,” said Modi.
Showering praises on Azad, the Prime Minister said: “I am worried. The person who will replace Ghulam Nabi ji (as Leader of Opposition) will have difficulty matching his work because he was not only concerned about his party but also about the country and the House”.
PM also said that when he met floor leaders during the early days of the Covid pandemic, Azad called and suggested that the PM should meet leaders of all parties. “I held that meeting on his suggestion. He has had experience of both ruling and the Opposition side.”
‘My doors always open for you’
PM got emotional several times during the speech and had a lump in his throat while speaking about Azad. Rajya Sabha bid farewell to four members from UT of J&K — Mir Mohammad Fayaz, Shamsher Singh who will retire on 10 February, and Ghulam Nabi Azad and Nazir Ahmad Laway who will retire on 15 February.
Recounting another incident when PM was not in electoral politics, Modi said: “Years ago when I came to Parliament for some work, I was not in electoral politics then, we were chatting in the lobby, and as journalists they got curious and we’re watching us. Once our conversation got over they asked him and Azad ji gave an apt reply. He said you may have seen us fighting on TV and streets but in this complex we are all one like a family”.
“We live in government accommodations and if you sit with him you will know that a garden in his bungalow will remind you of Kashmir valley. Whenever a competition is held, his bungalow is number 1,” he added.
Asking him to share his suggestions with him, the PM said: “Do not feel like you are no longer in the House. My doors are always open for you. I will need your suggestions. I will not let you retire,” he said.