Ghulam Nabi Azad's Rajya Sabha tenure ended on February 9.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the leaders who do not hide their true self, Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a public event in Jammu on February 28.
Azad, while noting that he is at political loggerheads with the Prime Minister, said he respects the latter for his village-origin and tea-selling background.
"I like lot of things about many leaders. I'm from village and feel proud...Even our prime minister hails from village and used to sell tea," the former Rajya Sabha MP said.
"We are political rivals but I appreciate that he doesn't hide his true self. Those who do, are living in bubble," Azad further added.
"A man should be proud (of who he is and where he comes from). I have travelled the world and stayed in 5-star hotels, in 7-star hotels... but when I sit with people from my village... there is a fragrance that makes it special," he added.
His remarks come a day after the G-23 leaders - the informal reference to 23 Congress veterans who have marked dissent against the party's style of functioning - sent a stern message to the party high command.
The group, which includes Azad, had gathered in Jammu on February 27 for a Shanti Sammelan. Former Union minister Kapil Sibal, who was one of the keynote speakers at the event, said the "Congress is turning weak".
The G-23, said former UP Congress chief Raj Babbar, is "Gandhi - 23" and wants to strengthen the party by following the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi.
Senior Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, while reacting to their remarks, said the party respects the dissident leaders and wants them to "engage in poll-bound states" if they want to strengthen the Congress.
Notably, the G-23 leaders had written an unprecedented letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August 2020, demanding a sweeping rejig within the party from top to bottom.
Azad was amongst the signatories to the letter sent to Sonia, and had drawn flak from a section of Gandhi family loyalists.
After his Rajya Sabha tenure got over earlier this month, the party did not announce whether he would be nominated from any other state.
Modi, on the final day of Azad's tenure in the Parliament's upper house, had paid a moving tribute to him.
Turning emotional, he recalled how Azad had - in 2007 when he was the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister - arranged for the aircraft to send back the bodies of Gujarat pilgrims who were killed in a terror attack. "During the call which I made to him (Azad), he could not stop crying," Modi had said.