Azad's Native Village Wears A Festive Look

13 April 2014
Deccan Chronicle
Amir Karim Tantray

Soti Bhalessa: With Union Health Minister and son of the soil Ghulam Nabi Azad contesting from the Udhampur-Doda constituency, people from his native village here are upbeat about the former Chief Minister's chances of winning the poll battle handsomely. Soti village with a population of around 1,000 is abuzz with poll campaign as one of their own is contesting the Lok Sabha polls. Azad, who has grown in the shadows of this mountainous belt, continues to be revered by the people of both the religions and electorate here seems to have made their mood to make him win by a comfortable margin. 'It is not about any party but for Ghulam Nabi Azad, who lives in the hearts and minds of the people of this area, that elections have brought a festive atmosphere. People irrespective of religion or caste will support him not only from here, but people of other areas of this constituency will also vote for him,' said 71-year-old Haji Muhammad Din, who runs a grocery store in Soti village. Azad did his schooling from Government High School Khilotran before moving to Government Degree College, Bhaderwah, to pursue his graduation. He later shifted to Kashmir valley for further studies. As the Congress leader is busy campaigning in other parts of this vast constituency, people here in Bhalessa are busy garnering support for their beloved leader. Bhalessa is still considered to be one of the most backward parts of Doda district, but during the two and a half year tenure of Azad as the Chief Minister of the state this area witnessed some fast development. 'There is no doubt that everything comes from the almighty, but it was Azad who changed the shape of this area. It was during his tenure that people of far off areas were connected with the road network,' said 38-year-old labourer Farooq Ahmad. 'Earlier, people used to ferry ration and other things on ponies now they have access to vehicles and life has become a bit easy,' he said. Azad remained at the helm of the Congress-PDP dispensation between 2005 and 2008. The enthusiasm is, however, not restricted to men only, women are also upbeat about elections. 'We are eagerly waiting to vote for Azad Saheb. Elections were of no meaning to us till Azad decided to contest and we are all geared up to make him a winner and that too with a huge margin,' said Zohra Begum. Such is the passion that you can hardly witness a vehicle without the Congress party flag. Azad's relatives living here are also making every attempt to garner support for him. They feel it is their responsibility to reach out to the people and seek vote and support for one of the tallest leaders of the state. 'We are fully prepared for the job at hands. People here have accepted their responsibility to make him a winner,' said a confident Ghulam Abbas, Azad's younger brother. Despite unconditional support for Azad, people here are wish that the leader takes over the reigns of the state once again. 'Since Azad left the state and new government was formed development of the area has taken a hit,' said Haji Muhammad Din. 'A power grid was established here, but work hasn't been completed so far. For days together people remain without electricity. There is a shortage of ration and other essential items also but nobody seems to be concerned about our plight,' he said, adding that once Azad reaches here we will convey our grievances to him.