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Azad launches Democratic Azad Party, unfurls party’s flag

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“Our ideology will be based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi’

Jammu: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday launched his new party – the Democratic Azad Party (DAP) – coinciding with the first day of Navratri festival, exactly a month after ending his over five-decade long association with the Congress.

Azad, 73, also unveiled the party’s flag that has three strips of mustard, white and dark blue colours, and said the priority of the new party will be its registration with the Election Commission, though it will continue its activities because Assembly elections in J&K can be declared anytime.

Announcing 50 percent tickets to youth and women in the next Assembly polls, Azad said he will not make the restoration of Article 370 an election issue in Jammu and Kashmir.

The former union minister also said there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion. “Our policies will not be impacted by sectarianism or religion. Everyone is free whether he is going to a temple, mosque, gurdwara or church.”

“I am launching DAP from here today. It symbolises democracy and freedom of speech and thought. Our ideology will be based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,” Azad, flanked by a large group of supporters including former deputy chief minister Tara Chand and several other former ministers, told reporters here.

The veteran politician clarified that Azad, the middle name of his party, does not symbolise him but it is meant to convey that the new party will be completely independent.

“Democratic is for democracy and Azad for independence…The party will be democratic and not an autocratic one, the power will not remain in one hand and the provisions of the party’s constitution will be based on total democracy,” he said.

Azad, who parted ways with the Congress on August 26, said the DAP will have “no competition” with any other political party and it will focus on “strengthening” peace and normalcy in J&K.

Extending his good wishes to Hindus on the commencement of Navratri festival, Azad said he had initially planned to float his party on September 23 but later it was decided the launch should be done on the first day of the Navratri to make a new beginning.

Referring to the party’s flag, he said the mustard colour symbolises creativity and diversity, white stands for peace “as we believe in Gandhian philosophy which will be our priority and our principle”. The dark blue has a vast meaning covering different aspects like freedom of speech, thinking, intuition, imagination and inspiration, he said.

Responding to a question about Article 370 that was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019, he said his party will not make its restoration an election issue in J&K.

Issues relating to roads, water supply and price rise are meant for elections. “I won’t stop anybody from making anything an election issue. I have a lot of things. Why should I make it an election issue?” he said.

Replying to a question about Kashmir-centric parties, particularly the PDP, criticising his remarks on Article 370 of the Constitution, Azad said, “You just check Parliament records of who has spoken or who has not (on Article 370). Get the records of Parliament on anyone’s name. But my take is simply that I don’t use such issues for elections.”

Azad asserted he has never said restoration of Article 370 was not possible.

“I never said this cannot happen. I said that I cannot convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji. If anyone can persuade Modi ji and Union Home Minister Amit Shah ji, they should do it. It will be a welcome step. I do not have any such influence on Modi ji,” Azad said.

He said only Parliament can restore Article 370 but “we need a majority”.

By abrogating Article 370, the Centre had revoked the special status of J&K. The Supreme Court has agreed to list after Dussehra vacation the pleas challenging the Centre’s decision.

Azad said it was a welcome step that the apex court will be hearing the case from October 10.

Referring to the choice of the name for his new party, he said he had received over 1,500 suggestions from his well wishers across the country.

“It was difficult because there are a large number of recognized political parties in the country. J&K  has a lot of diversity with two big regions and a number of sub-regions having different languages and cultures. So we have to find such a name which everyone can understand easily,” he added.

He said his political journey started with the Gandhi family but his ideal remained Mahatma Gandhi since his student days.

“It was (Mahatma) Gandhi who saw a ray of light from Kashmir during partition when there were massacres everywhere even in Jammu but not a single Hindu was slapped in Kashmir. Today BJP also acknowledges Gandhi who has become a common factor – left, right and centre.”

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