Aziz Qureshi, 74, has always flaunted his Congress background. When he was appointed Uttarakhand governor in 2012, he announced in public that his “loyalty” to the “Gandhi-Nehru family” had been rewarded, and thanked Sonia Gandhi for her “blessings”.
Qureshi, therefore, surprised Congress leaders with his remarks after the NDA asked him to take additional charge as Uttar Pradesh governor between June and July. He thanked and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Shortly after taking charge, he went on to ask the UP government to ensure every office has a photograph of Modi. On July 7, he met Modi in what was described as a courtesy visit.
The UP appointment had come after governor B L Joshi had put in his papers amid reports about the NDA asking UPA-appointed governors to quit. Now, it is Qureshi who has taken the NDA to court for allegedly pushing him to quit as Uttarakhand governor, three years ahead of schedule.
Qureshi, a lawyer, hails from Madhya Pradesh. He joined the Congress when he was 14 and went on to become a founder member and the first general secretary of the Youth Congress in 1959. He became a Congress MLA in the early 1970s, and served as minister of irrigation, power and education. In 1984, he won the Lok Sabha election from Satna.
He was once considered close to chief ministers Arjun Singh and Digvijaya Singh; he claims to have worked closely with prime minister Indira Gandhi.
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His month-long stint in Uttar Pradesh was eventful. He held janata darbars to resolve the common man’s problems. It was an extension of a trend he had started in Uttarakhand, earning a reputation for accessibility, though it also won him criticism from the BJP in UP. “We cannot remember any governor it was so easy to meet. No appointment was necessary, as long as it was during visiting hours,” said a Raj Bhawan officer in Lucknow.
Qureshi visited Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow. What really appear to have stoked a controversy are a decision and a statement. He cleared a long-pending demand for minority status to Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, Rampur, something that had been refused by the previous two governors. And, the day before his UP tenure ended, came a statement that “rape cannot be stopped even if the entire police force or Army is deployed.” The next day, Amar Ujala and local dailies quoted him as having said also that “Even God cannot stop rapes in UP”, something he has denied. He alleged while leaving that a conspiracy was being hatched against him.