Throughout his political career that started from Sanjay Gandhi days, Azad has contested twice from J&K. In 1977, he contested from Inderwal for the state assembly and lost. The second time he contested from Bhaderwah, his home segment, months after he took over as the Chief Minister of J&K in 2005. He did not campaign and he created a record as nearly ninety percent of voters polled in his favour. After the results were announced, he only flew to the town to become part of the celebrations.
Azad survived in active politics either by contesting from places outside J&K or simply becoming member of the Rajya Sabha. He won 1980 and 1985 elections from Washim (Maharashtra). In 1990, he was nominated to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra and in 1996, National Conference nominated him to the upper house. He helped Congress to become a major political force in the state in 2002 when it allied with PDP. Azad replaced Mufti Sayeed as the Chief Minister after three years but the coalition fell under its own weight in 2008 summer. Azad was re-elected to Rajya Sabha in February 2009.
That is perhaps why Azad was reluctant to contest from Udhampur-Doda seat. He gave multiple reasons for staying away. He had organizational commitments and assignments. He had to manage campaigning at many places. Azad even publicly ruled out the possibility of contesting Lok Sabha during his recent visit to Chenab Valley region.
But the party leaders did not leave any chance to rope him in. They camped in Delhi for a long time and some of them even visited the party high command and convinced them that Azad should be asked to contest. The reason is simple: Congress believes as Modi and his party has triggered a sort of communal support and cleavage in Jammu region, there is only Azad who can manage consolidating the Muslim vote of the region and get a good share of Hindu votes simply because he belongs to the region and is respected across the communities.
Even the party ally NC was supportive of the idea. The reason was simple. NC hates both the Congress MPs – Madal Lal and Lal Singh. They believe the two parliamentarians acted with malice and bias. NC had suggested Congress to change both the faces. Their reason was simple: the NC voter will find it very difficult to support them given the baggage they are carrying. The two had ignored the Muslim region completely. Finally they succeeded in roping in Azad as their candidate.
Congress as well as NC is happy. They say while they have secured one seat, Azad’s candidacy will have a positive impact on Jammu-Poonch seat as well. One thing very interesting about Azad is that he is acceptable to a huge population of Hindus as well. Modi wave is perhaps checked to a level in Jammu.