Several members of the group of 23 leaders who had written to Sonia Gandhi demanding an organisational overhaul in the Congress congratulated Azad for being awarded Padma Bhushan, saying it was “well-deserved”.
Reacting to the row, Singh said he was distressed at the “unseemly controversy” over the well deserved Padma Award to Azad.
“These National Awards should not become subject of inter-party controversy, far less of intra-party ones,” Singh, a former Union minister and party stalwart, said in a statement.
“I have known Ghulam Nabi for half a century since he first started his political career as an active participant in my second election campaign for the Lok Sabha in 1971 from the Udhampur constituency, to which he belongs,” he said.
Since then, Singh said, he has seen Azad rise through sheer dint of hard work, dedication and administrative ability to becoming a Cabinet Minister, both with P V Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh.
As Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha for seven years, he played a positive and constructive role in our Parilamentary system, Singh said.
Azad also served as the first Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from the Jammu region, and his short stint is still remembered positively in both regions, he said.
“If one of our colleagues is honoured he should be greeted with warm appreciation rather than snide remarks,” Singh said.
Congress veteran and former law minister Ashwani Kumar has also come out in support of Azad and hit out at Ramesh, saying his criticism of Azad is nothing less than a “shameful innuendo” and does not do justice to the ethos of the Congress party.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is also in the G23, has said that it was ironic that the Congress does not need Azad’s services when the nation recognises his contributions to public life.
“Ghulam Nabi Azad conferred Padam Bhushan. Congratulations bhaijan. Ironic that the Congress doesn’t need his services when the nation recognises his contributions to public life,” Sibal said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Other members of the G-23 Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Raj Babbar congratulated Azad for the Padma award, saying it was “well-deserved”.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also criticised Ramesh, saying it shows one’s shallowness.