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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: I.N.D.I.A. bloc PM will be first among equals, all opposition parties will join hands after polls, says Shashi Tharoor

The Congress leader said, 'The growth performance of the Indian economy has been better under such dispensations than under single party governments.'
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 12:30 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 12:30 IST

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New Delhi: Opposition parties, campaigning together or against each other, will join hands after the Lok Sabha polls, says Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, asserting that the people will get a prime minister who is first among equals and listens to others with an I.N.D.I.A. bloc coalition government.

Including the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in his argument on opposition parties getting together after the “day of reckoning” on June 4, Tharoor said in an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency's headquarters that a coalition government is nothing to be afraid of.

“The growth performance of the Indian economy has been better under such dispensations than under single party governments,” he said.

In his view, this is an election for 'change' and as of now the BJP has 'lost its grip' on the narrative.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) member also defended the party's decision to not attend the 'pran pratishtha' ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, saying it was right to turn down the invitation as it was 'essentially a political platform for the greater glorification of Prime Minister Narendra Modi'.

"It would have been a mistake in my view had we done it. As a purely political decision, it was the right one," he said during the freewheeling interaction.

Tharoor said it is true a coalition government functions very differently from a monolithic one-party government.

"Given Mr Modi's style, the personality cult built around him, and the way the BJP has been ruling, I think it is fair to say that it (an INDIA bloc government) would be very unlike what we have seen in the last 10 years,' he said, confident that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.) will form the next government.

The record and experience of the Indian public with coalition governments has been rather good, the former union minister said.

"So, in many ways the advantage of a coalition is that there won't be any sort of autocratic tendencies whoever becomes prime minister... they will have to take into account the others. Frankly, it is the classic political theory of parliamentary systems of governance. Right now, we are seeing a parliamentary system being run presidentially which is the worst of both the worlds," Tharoor argued.

"If you have a coalition government of the INDIA bloc, you are going to see, for the first time in a long while, a PM who is first among equals, who has to listen to others, take their point of view into account and who would have to be a good manager," he said.

"Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee is considered in many ways an excellent example of that kind of consensus builder. He did not have a majority, far from it… he had 26 parties in his coalition, but his government was able to deliver effective results and at the same time reassure Indians that they had a functioning government," Tharoor said.

The author-politician also hailed former prime minister Manmohan Singh's style of governance, saying he was able to pursue 'very relentlessly' his economic goal and preside over the best growth period India has ever seen.

Noting that the coalition of UPA-1 broke and the Left quit the government and was not part of UPA-2, Tharoor said there is always the issue on which a prime minister may have to draw the line for one or more of his coalition partners.

"So, my own view is let us be reassured that our history in operating the system in the Constitution we have has by and large safeguarded the interest of the people. There have been many periods when people have been absolutely doomsaying about our country and we have come through all those periods," he said.

"I would say... coalition government is nothing to be afraid of and certainly when I speak to most voters, they are thinking in terms of who is the candidate 'I am voting for', what values does he or she represent, who do they bring to power in Delhi and how is that power going to be exercised," Tharoor said.

Asked about contradictions in the INDIA bloc as seen in bitter exchanges between the Congress and the Left in Kerala and whether that would be an impediment in the formation of a cohesive government, Tharoor pointed out that the UPA and the Vajpayee-led NDA before that came together after the elections.

"So, the truth is that in our country coalitions come after the polling...This is an unusual case where a serious attempt was made to bring people together before voting even took place. It was very clear to all of us that the coalition will work on a state-by-state basis," he said.

Citing the example of Kerala, Tharoor said it was unthinkable that the Congress which leads the UDF and the Communists who lead the LDF would ever be partners in the state.

"We have been fighting each other and at loggerheads for the last 55 years and alternating in power until the last election, so there was no question of that even being feasible. Having said that, right next door in Tamil Nadu, the same party, CPI(M), CPI, the Congress, our ally Muslim League and the DMK are all partners, have been partners and continue to be partners, there is no issue," he said.

"Finally, when it comes to the day of reckoning on June 4 (when results are declared), I have no doubt that all these parties whether or not they are campaigning together or against each other, including the Trinamool Congress, when we have the numbers to prevent the BJP coming to power, we will come together," Tharoor asserted.

Tharoor said he has friends in parties that are not allied with the Congress who have been telling him that after June 4 'we will work together'.

According to him, the “hubristic narrative” before the first phase is over.

“I don't think we are going to hear people say 'abki baar 400 paar' again for some time to come," the Congress leader said.

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Published 04 May 2024, 12:30 IST

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