Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday showered praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that he never hides his true self from others, ANI reported.

The senior Congress leader said he respected Modi for his humility, even though he opposed him politically. “I like a lot of things about different political leaders,” Azad said at an event in Jammu. “I belong to a village. Our prime minister also says that he is from a village and used to sell tea. He never hides his true self. We should all be proud of our roots.”

Azad said that people who hide their true selves live in a bubble. “I have travelled the world, stayed in five-star hotels,” he added. “But it is a special feeling when I sit and talk to the people of my village.”

Azad’s praise for Modi came a day after sharing a stage with other Congress leaders who have criticised the leadership of the Gandhi family. At an event in Jammu, Azad appeared to negate party leader Rahul Gandhi’s “north-south” remark that courted controversy recently. “Be it Jammu or Kashmir or Ladakh, we respect all religions, people and castes,” Azad said. “We respect everyone equally... that is our strength and we will continue with this.”

Meanwhile, his colleague Kapil Sibal said that the party was getting weak and needed to be strengthened.

Azad completed his term in the Rajya Sabha on February 15. A week before that, Modi gave him a tearful farewell in the upper house of the Parliament.

Modi had referred to Azad as a friend and teared up while recalling his efforts during a 2007 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, in which tourists from Gujarat were killed. Modi was then the chief minister of Gujarat, while Azad was his counterpart in Jammu and Kashmir.

The prime minister had added: “I worry that whosoever will take over from Azad will have to fill very big boots because he cared not only about his party but about the country as well as the House. This is not a small thing.”