‘Just following the high command’

Senior Congress leader Abdul Gani Vakil has levelled serious allegations against fellow congressman and minister Taj Mohiud din asking the government to initiate an inquiry. In an interview with Syed Asma, he talks about his motives for going public against his party colleague.

Kashmir Life: You are considered to be one of the most vocal Congress leaders in the state. This time you have spoken against your own party colleague. What compelled you?

AG Vakil: I am not against any particular individual. Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi in Congress have started a crusade against corruption and I am just taking that forward. It is not a matter of colleagues, it can be anybody. In the present situation I am not against any particular individual I have just demanded enquiry in whatever came out in (news) papers. Some papers had accused PHE of bungling and an NGO went to the anti corruption court which has now directed investigation into the matter.

KL: In a letter to Taj Mohiud din you accused him of being corrupt, inept and partisan. He retaliated by saying you are a habitual blackmailer. Two senior leaders at loggerheads. What do you expect people to understand?

AGV: In my letter, I didn’t accuse Taj Mohiud din of anything. I just asked him to enquire about what is being reported in papers about his department. I even sent him the paper cuttings of some newspapers which reported about the bungling of his department but he took that personally and came out in press defaming me. He didn’t have anything to say about me. It is like when somebody gets frustrated or annoyed he started calling names.

KL: Taj Mohiud din says you wanted him to transfer some engineers and officials in PHE and Irrigation departments, from whom you had taken bribes and when he did not accede to your demands, you defamed him?

AGV: I am not on talking terms with him for last six years. I challenge him if he can provide any document, any phone call which supports what he is saying I will quit politics.

KL: This is Taj Mohiud din’s second term as a minister in the coalition. For how long do you think the practice you accused him of was going on?

AGV: It must have been (going on) a long time. It came out in papers and other media also revealed that bungling hasbeen going on in the PHE department. Now Public Accountability Committee (PAC) also came out saying something is wrong in the department. I just have demanded an enquiry and wanted to know why has he maintained criminal silence over it.

KL:Congress party is playing a vital role in the government formation in the state but is itself ridden with factionalism…?

AGV: Congress is a democratic and a very strong party. We have no separate groups within our party. It is not factionalism if we talk freely in our party. I have every right to talk within the framework of the party if I feel something is wrong. I must tell you we are a united but democratic party.

KL: Legislators came out with a report conclusively establishing that Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand blocked funds to Kashmir and facilitated the release of funds to Jammu. How will Congress, which has comparatively small presence in the Valley, deal with it?

AGV: I haven’t issued any statement in this regard but PAC has directed an enquiry into the matter. And these things are the matters concerningthe (Congress) high command. They know everything.We are just disciplined soldiers. It would entirely be the party decision.Our high command’s decision would be the ultimate word, we cannot comment in these matters. We are working under party discipline.

KL: You are said to have close association with GhulamNabi Azad, but recently he, in public, accused you of disturbing party discipline.

AGV: It is not confirmed if he actually said it or not and I haven’t confirmed it personally either. It was only carried by one paper and I believe that if a leader of his stature gives any statement it has to come in almost all papers but that statement was only published in one paper so it is questionable.And, for a second, if I may believe he said so. I have full regards and respect for him. He has full right (to say) what he said and I have full right to what I said. I don’t think I have disrupted any party discipline. I have taken up a mission as directed by Sonia Gandhi against corruption and I go by that mission. I am not against any individual, I am just against corruption. This is a threat not only in state but in the whole country and when you talk against corruption you have to be ready to face these situations. I think if somebody talks against corruption he should be appreciated.

KL: Do you believe your party high command will take action against the senior Congress leaders involved in Corruption?

AGV: Did Sonia ji spare CM of Maharashtra or (Suresh) Kalmadi that she will spare other Congressmen? Both were expelled on accusations only. Our Prime Minister, Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji all have stood against corruption. They have not even spared their own party people, how can you even (ask a) question about it.

KL: But back in Valley where it is no longer an accusation about Peerzada, the Crime Branch has reportedly indicted him, his resignation was not approved by Sonia Gandhi?

AGV: Nothing has come up yet from high command’s side. They are very much involved in UP elections, you see. They haven’t accepted his resignation. They may first investigate on party level also and then take a step. For now education department has been taken away from him. High command is looking into the matter, they cannot take a decision in haste.

KL: Recently, you suggested the CM to take action against the corrupt politicians and officers, what steps should be taken against them?

AGV: I have been against corruption from the very beginning. I had suggested to them earlier as well to look into the property matters (assets) of politicians.  Let them start from me…we should look into the source of our property, etc.We have a law which will take its own course beside another thing which was started by JenabGhulamNabi Azad, seizure of property.

KL: Should corrupt ministers resign?

AGV: It becomes his moral duty to resign. If one is proven guilty, yes it is a law and his moral duty to resign.

KL: So applying this principle shouldn’t Peerzada resign?

AGV: It is going to be a party decision.

KL: Now that you have taken up the mission against corruption, who else in the list?

AGV: As of now, nothing else has come up in the media. Till the time I will get something substantial (I) can’t comment.

KL: As anexperienced political worker andex-minister should you only depend on media reports for knowing the wrong doings around you?

AGV: Legislators here do not work as extensively as they are supposed to but media does, so I have no other support besides the media reports.

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Syed Asma completed her masters in journalism from the Islamic University, Awantipore, in 2010. After working with Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Times, she joined Kashmir Life in February 2011. She covered politics, society, gender issues and the environment. In 2016, she left journalism to pursue her M Phil from the University of Kashmir. She is presently pursuing PhD.

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