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'People tolerating Modi will be at the cost of their lives': Mallikarjun Kharge

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge tells DH’s Bharath Joshi why he thinks the Congress’ guarantees will trump Modi’s.
harath Joshi
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 18:15 IST
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 18:15 IST

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Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who heads the I.N.D.I.A. bloc, says Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “running around” now because there is “no wave” in his favour. Kharge tells DH’s Bharath Joshi why he thinks the Congress’ guarantees will trump Modi’s. Excerpts:

You’ve been saying that this election is to save democracy. Is it also to save Congress?

Congress has survived for 139 years. We needn’t fight for that. All Constitutional institutions and autonomous bodies have been reduced to a low level without having their say or being able to act fairly. Those who go against Modi are made to resign, get eliminated and their promotions stopped so that they leave on their own. That’s what happened with two Election Commissioners and RBI governors. People are being harassed, threatened and arm-twisted with ED and CBI cases. If Modi is a true democrat, why did he take 444 MLAs from across parties? In Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Goa, in spite of people voting against them, they arm-twisted and formed governments. What does that mean? Modi doesn't want to protect democracy. He’s an autocrat, which is dangerous. On electoral bonds, even after the Supreme Court judgement, he's saying that everyone will realise the transparency. When it’s convenient, whatever SC says is right.

How is the 2019 election different from this one?

In 2014 and 2019, they lied to people and came to power. Where are the two crore jobs a year? Where's Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts? What about doubling farmers’ income? We gave guarantees without calling them that - NREGA, food security, rural health, RTI... these are rights that even Modi can't remove. That’s called real work. They've taxed people from head to toe, right from hair oil. On the other hand, heavy cesses are being collected from which states get nothing. And, they say it's a federal government. Frankly speaking, I've not seen such a PM who makes mistake after mistake. For everything, he says ‘Modi, Modi’ as if we gained independence in 2014.

Are you downplaying Modi’s popularity?

There's no question of downplaying. Don't people know there's unemployment? Unemployment is at a 45-year high. There’s inflation. If people don't realise this, it means they're tolerating him at the cost of their lives and putting future generations at risk.

What is the biggest strength of I.N.D.I.A.?

Everybody has come together to save the Constitution and democracy. That's the biggest strength.

Is it a disadvantage that there’s no PM face in the Opposition?

When there’s an alliance, who will declare a PM face? We'll first win the election. This is a democracy. In several countries, a coalition PM emerges after elections. But now, people are against Modi and his government. To defeat Modi, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc will get whatever number of seats is required.

How well coordinated is the bloc?

There are small differences in one or two places, which is natural when 26 parties are there. The only discord came from West Bengal. Still, Mamata Banerjee says she wants to come under the umbrella of I.N.D.I.A. Once, Arvind Kejriwal was also unhappy and away. He has joined. Though there are some irks - for example in Maharashtra - we've adjusted everywhere else by taking them into confidence. So, it'll give us a good result.

What gives you confidence?

We have worked. All political parties are working together. Everybody knows there's no wave. Earlier, Modi used to make speeches here and there. Today, he's running around. This itself shows.

Will the Ram temple have an impact on polls?

I don’t want to get into those issues. First, allow all my people to enter all temples. Then, I'll come. Why wasn’t President Draupadi Murmu, the first citizen, invited for the Pran pratishtha? Ramnath Kovind, an SC president, wasn’t called for the foundation stone laying of the new Parliament. Even Murmu wasn’t invited for its opening. You have this narrow mentality and blame others. Faith in Rama, Krishna, Basava, Buddha... we won't criticise. Why should we get into that? I can also go around talking about Manusmriti and how that won’t let me come up. I can also say that Modi, being a chaiwala, is a Shudra.

Will voters accept Congress’ 25 guarantees?

Definitely. We'll provide apprenticeships worth Rs 1 lakh to youths leading to a permanent job. Who'll oppose this? For women, we're giving Rs 1 lakh, which is acceptable. The five guarantees in Karnataka were accepted. The same will happen on an all-India basis. Who won't accept it if we say we'll stop exam paper leaks, fill up backlog vacancies and recruit for 30 lakh government jobs? These are acceptable programmes.

Karnataka’s finances are hit by the guarantees. There are concerns of adverse impact on national finances as well.

Yes, there’ll be some hiccups initially. Yes, some big development works will stop until we find other resources. If this will happen by giving money to the poor, then what about writing off corporate debts worth Rs 16 lakh crore, which was a loot? Under the UPA, India’s debts were Rs 53 lakh crore. Today, it is Rs 163 lakh crore.

Many Congress leaders went to BJP. Why couldn't you retain them?

I've been in one party for 53 years. You know of all the injustice I've faced. Still, I've remained in one party. If you have the ideological commitment, you’ll stay united. But there are many ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’ types. They won't listen to any ideological sermons. If you have power, they'll come. You lose power, they'll switch.

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Published 18 April 2024, 18:15 IST

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