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Pain, misery after 10 years of Modi govt; Congress 'very well placed' in Punjab: Manish Tewari

On whether the Ram temple inauguration in Ayodhya will prove to be an important poll issue, the Congress leader said politics is politics and religion is religion.
Last Updated 25 February 2024, 09:04 IST

New Delhi: Congress leader Manish Tewari on Sunday dismissed the BJP's 370 seats pitch for the Lok Sabha polls as "hubris and arrogance" and claimed that there was "pain and misery" on the ground after 10 years of the Narendra Modi government.

While attacking the BJP over its performance of the last 10 years in government, Tewari kept his cards about the choice of his constituency for the Lok Sabha polls close to his chest.

Asked if he would be contesting from Anandpur Sahib, the Congress leader simply said, "I am the MP from Anandpur Sahib."

In an interview with PTI, Tewari also said the Congress was "very well placed" in Punjab for the general elections.

Asked about the speculation and rumours doing the rounds that he may switch to the BJP, the Congress MP said, "I do not dignify rumours with a response."

He said posting of his recent speech in Parliament on social media amid the speculation "speaks for itself".

Tewari had launched a scathing attack on the Modi government's economic performance during the Budget session of Parliament earlier this month.

On the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) finally getting its act together and recently sealing seat-sharing deals with the AAP and the Samajwadi Party, Tewari said elections have not been announced as yet and so time is not a constraint.

On whether the I.N.D.I.A. bloc was late off the blocks with the BJP aggressively working on a poll strategy, the former Union minister said ultimately people have to assess the incumbent government on 10 years of its performance and, therefore, that is the litmus test of this election.

"It is the people who have to vote. Until elections are announced, there is a time and a place and a moment for doing everything," he asserted.

Hitting back at critics calling the Congress-AAP alliance "unnatural", Tewari pointed out that the BJP and the PDP were in an alliance in Jammu and Kashmir before the BJP decided to "dismember" the state and convert it into two Union territories and "throw the PDP leadership into jail".

"So, I am pleasantly surprised when the word 'unnatural alliances' is used," he said.

With the Congress and the AAP not joining hands in Punjab, Tewari said politics is the preponderance of probabilities.

"Obviously you do not expect the ruling establishment and the principal opposition party in a state to come together (in Punjab). There are different models for every state. In Kerala we (the Congress and the Left) have been cooperating at the Centre and fighting at the state level for a very long time," he said.

Asked how the Congress was placed in Punjab and if it would increase its tally from the last Lok Sabha polls, Tewari said the party is "very well placed".

On the BJP and others' contention of 'Narendra Modi versus who' in the polls and what would be I.N.D.I.A. bloc's response to it, he said, "We are a parliamentary democracy and not a presidential form of government. It is the MPs who should decide at the culmination of a poll as to who their leader would be and should be."

On Prime Minister Modi and the BJP's claim that the party will get 370 seats and the NDA will get more than 400, Tewari said, "Hubris and arrogance are the worst enemy of any individual or political party."

Expressing confidence that seat-sharing deals will further be struck in the future to strengthen the I.N.D.I.A. bloc, Tewari said alliances are work in progress. "So, therefore, obviously till the time things don't fructify, any comment would be premature. But as I said politics is the preponderance of probabilities and is a work in progress," he said.

On whether the Ram temple inauguration in Ayodhya will prove to be an important poll issue, the Congress leader said politics is politics and religion is religion.

"Therefore, if you mix the two it has very deleterious consequences on the health of any polity. My faith is my faith. I have respect and reverence for Lord Ram and the temple which has been built in Ayodhya but I am surprised that why won't an incumbent government ask for votes on its 10 years of track record," Tewari said, taking a swipe at the BJP.

He said the key issues for the Lok Sabha polls are preservation of democracy, inflation and unemployment.

Asked about the bread and butter issues raised by the opposition not working in some of the recent assembly polls, Tewari said ultimately any election should be fought on real issues and these are the main issues on the ground.

"Preservation of democracy, safeguarding the sanctity of the Constitution, ensuring the autonomy of institutions, ensuring that young people get livelihoods, ensuring that inflation does not become a millstone around the neck of housewives, these are the issues," he said.

Tewari also hit back at Prime Minister Modi for his attack on the opposition over the issue of corruption, saying it is like raising a ghost and slaying it.

"But there comes a point in time when raising the same ghost and slaying it either does not fetch you any electoral dividends or is a factor of diminishing returns. If you continue to harp on a non-existent bogey it means you have nothing of a track record to show," he said, attacking the BJP.

"After all you are an incumbent government, you should be asking for votes on the strength of your performance over the past 10 years," he said.

Asked if the I.N.D.I.A. bloc was looking for a 2004 repeat when the Congress had beaten the BJP's shining India campaign and analysts claiming that 2024 is a foregone conclusion, Tewari said it is the people of India who have to decide not some armchair analysts, especially those who are more like desk stenographers, rather than objective analysts.

"As I said I am not an astrologer and I can see the pain and misery on the ground. People have to assess the track record of this government over the past 10 years and when you see pain and misery on the ground, I think the conclusions are obvious," he said.

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(Published 25 February 2024, 09:04 IST)

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