Fight in states but in House, Oppn must be one: Kharge

‘Opposition parties can fight in the states; in Parliament, we must be one’

Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to DH’s Shemin Joy on issues and the strategy being adopted in Parliament during the Session

The Opposition wants to corner the Narendra Modi government on a variety of issues during the winter session of Parliament, including on the farmers’ issue and price rise among others. But there are questions over unity among the opposition parties. Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to DH’s Shemin Joy on issues and the strategy being adopted in Parliament during the Session.

Q. What are the issues you plan to raise during this session?

A. We have discussed it at a meeting of the Congress strategy committee chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi. The government has brought a bill to repeal the farm laws (the bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament without discussion on Monday). Nobody opposes the bill, but we will have to ask some tough questions. Why was there a delay of these many months to repeal the laws? Over 700 farmers lost their lives during the year-long farmers’ protest. There is this question of who is responsible for this mess.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not acknowledged that the laws were bad and not helpful to the farmers. Modi says the laws are not bad but they are repealing it because he was not able to convince some farmers. That means, he still holds these laws to be good. That itself reveals the government’s intentions. We will also raise other issues faced by farmers, including that of providing legal backing for Minimum Support Price (MSP), fertilisers, etc.

There is the issue of the continuance of the Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, whose son is arrested in the case of the killing of four farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. He continues to be in the government and in a position to interfere and influence even as he repeatedly claims that his son is innocent.

Price rise and fuel price hike are important issues. We will also have Pegasus, Chinese incursions, among other issues. We will also demand that all the labour codes be withdrawn. We have identified 16-17 issues. We will use parliamentary tools like suspension of business to discuss issues of urgent importance, short duration discussion and calling attention motion among others to raise these issues.

Q. Will the farm laws cease to be a poll issue with the government repealing the laws?

A. The government cannot save itself by repealing the farm laws. Farmers are sitting at the Delhi borders for more than a year. Over 700 people have died. Who is responsible for that? Finally, you (the government) have decided to repeal the laws. Why did you take that decision? You took the decision because of the upcoming polls. Not because you genuinely felt that there is something wrong with the laws. You did not take the decision till over 700 people died. The issue will not die down. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and others will continuously raise this and other issues.

Q. The monsoon session in July-August was disrupted on the Pegasus issue. Will the winter session also witness frequent disruptions?

A. It all depends on the situation. Many things happen spontaneously. Nobody goes into the House with an intention to disrupt. It depends on the response of the government to the issues raised by the MPs, the Opposition. It will all depend on what response the government gives when we raise MSP, sacking of Ajay Mishra, Pegasus, etc. On Pegasus, ultimately what we said has turned out to be right. The Supreme Court has ordered the setting up of a committee to look into the issue. If the government had given us time to raise the issue, there would not have been disruptions. Then, there are other issues like the Covid-19 situation, the issue of providing wrong figures on the pandemic, and vaccination coverage. The Covid-19 deaths are under-counted. Experts are saying so. Then there are claims on Covid-19 vaccination. We will have to raise these issues.

Q. Is Covid-19 an issue to be raised during the upcoming Assembly elections in five states?

A. These elections will be fought on a number of failures of the government. It is not just one issue. Covid-19 management is obviously there. Then there is price rise, farmers’ issues, the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, atrocities against Dalits and women like the Hathras incident, targeting of minorities, etc. The BJP always takes some route to polarise people. We will take up all issues.

Q. There are questions being raised about Opposition unity, especially as Trinamool Congress has admitted several Congress leaders into its fold.

A. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has instructed me to talk to all parties. We are trying to speak to everybody. More than 15 Opposition leaders have got together. We have spoken to Trinamool Congress also and will continue to do so. On common issues inside Parliament, we will rise in unison.

Outside Parliament, parties can have differences and fight each other electorally or organisationally. They may differ with Congress. That is fine. Rahul Gandhi had earlier told a meeting of floor leaders that they may have differences with each other in the states but we can fight for people unitedly in Parliament. That is our stand.

Q. Many Opposition parties in Parliament are fighting each other in the states in the upcoming Assembly polls. Will it have an impact on Opposition unity in Parliament?

A. We have already told them that they can do whatever they want in the states. There may be regional issues, ideological issues. It does not matter whether you are with us or against us in the states. But at the national level, on issues, wherever we can agree, we should fight together. You are concerned (about these issues), and we are concerned, too. Let us fight together. 

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