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'Internal strengthening first, alliance talk later': Mallikarjun Kharge on Congress' 2024 plans


UDAIPUR: The Congress on Friday said it will discuss alliance issues after strengthening its own organisation and unifying its cadres as no partner will come "if you don't have any investment".

Ahead of the three-day 'Chintan Shivir' here, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will decide on alliances with those parties that subscribe to its ideology and are concerned over the "attack" on democracy and the Constitution and want to save them.

Kharge said the Shivir will usher in a clear message that nationalism and love for India is the core philosophy of the Congress.

"This is a fight between Indian nationalists V/S pseudo nationalists. Those who stand with the principles of the Indian National Congress represent the Indian way of life and thought that has sustained this civilisation for 3000 years," "Not the fake nationalism of BJP-RSS.

It is the Congress party that adheres to the Indian path of rejecting all extremes.

This Chintan Shivir will usher in a clear message that nationalism and love for India is the core philosophy of the Indian National Congress," Kharge said.

The political challenge today for the Congress is five-fold, he said, and asserted that the party will come up with a political action plan on rising to these challenges.

"First, we have to retrieve our rich legacy and heritage to inspire the youth. We need to redefine our ideology to reassure our party workers and supporters. We have to reaffirm our commitment to the Constitution, of ensuring liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, the federal structure, the poorest and the most oppressed in society. We have to reclaim the Indian way of life and what it means to be an Indian," Kharge said.

"We need to reinvent our politics to transform the party, society and the nation, including politics as a form of social service, how we connect to the people on issues that matter to them, how we raise funds from the people, how we tackle lies and distortions, and how we can lead initiatives that bring people together," Kharge said.

On the issue of alliances, the Congress leader said the party will formulate a broad principle and will go with those accepting the principles.

"First we want to set right our own house. We want to make the Congress people more active and more powerful and then we will go to others. If you don't have any investment which partner will come and who will put money on you," Kharge told reporters.

"So after addressing our own deficiencies we will discuss the alliance issue and formulate a broad principle. Whosoever accepts that principle we will go with them," he added.

He said after removing whatever deficiencies, which will be discussed here at the Shivir, some proposals will come forward and whosoever accepts these principles, then we will go to them.

"We want to take everyone along, we will walk with those who believe in the secular fabric and constitutional values. First we want to set our own house in order. We first want to make the Congress people more active and more powerful and then we will go to the others," he noted.

The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said the top party leadership will discuss on how to strengthen the organisation at all levels and come out with a clear strategy in this regard.

The party has suffered a series of electoral defeats in the past few years and is working on several steps to arrest the decline.

Kharge, who heads the Chintan Shivir committee on political issues, said among the proposals to be discussed include the "attack" on democracy and the Constitution, protecting diversity including religious and linguistic, rising communal polarisation, protection of autonomous bodies and institutions, national security and foreign policy.

Besides, he said the issues of Centre-State relations, decisions taken by the Centre, alliances with regional parties, the North East situation and that in Jammu and Kashmir will also be discussed.

Kharge said the Congress wanted to take along anyone and everyone who subscribes to its ideology and believes in constitutional principles, democracy and secular fabric but will first organise its own house before looking out.

He said saving democracy was foremost and then the Constitution, which were under attack, after which the fundamental rights of people and saving institutions were most important.

The senior Congress leader also attacked the ruling BJP, saying it talks of nationalism and is trying to teach it to the Congress which has been at the forefront of India's freedom struggle.

He said the leaders of the BJP and the RSS were never seen during the freedom struggle, including the Quit India and other movements, and dubbed them as "pseudo-nationals".

"Those who never fought for the nation or made any sacrifices for the country are now teaching us lessons," he noted.

"If you were real patriots, where were you during the Quit India movement or when Mahatma Gandhi launched various agitations," he asked.

Kharge said the Congress and its leaders have fought from the front and the country's history needs to be told to the younger generations and also the Congress role during the freedom struggle.

"If people are giving importance to 'jumlas' and not to our hard work, then it is injustice to us," Kharge said.

"Our commitment to the Indian nation is founded upon years of determined fight against British rule.

When the BJP's forebears and the Muslim League were forming joint governments in Sindh and West Bengal as puppets of British, it is the Congress that was waging a battle for India's freedom," he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress should do 'aatma-chintan' about staying relevant rather than engaging in 'chintan' about the country which is in the safe hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP said on Friday.

The BJP's swipe at the Congress came as the principal opposition party began a three-day brainstorming session, Chintan Shivir, in Rajasthan's Udaipur where its president Sonia Gandhi lashed out at the Modi government.

Hitting back, BJP's national media incharge Anil Baluni said Sonia Gandhi should invest her energy in reviving the fortunes of her party.

"Rather than 'chintan' (brainstorming) about the country, Congress should do "aatma-chintan' (introspection) about its survival, as the party is totally disconnected from both the ground (realities) and the masses," he said.

As far as the country is concerned, it is in the safe hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government is capable enough to take care of the country, he said.

Baluni said the people have full faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, under whom the country has touched new heights.

"People have unflinchingly supported the BJP by voting in its favour consistently, whereas the Congress is frustrated and has been clueless about how to behave as a responsible opposition," said Baluni, who is also the party's chief spokesperson.

At the Congress conclave, Sonia Gandhi accused Prime Minister Modi of keeping the country in a state of permanent polarisation, "brutalising" minorities and "threatening" political opponents by misusing institutions.

Baluni said Congress should also do "chintan" over the law and order problems and the alleged atrocities against Dalits and women in Rajasthan as it is in power there.

"The country is completely safe and progressing under Prime Minister Modi's leadership," he said.

BJP Rajasthan president Satish Poonia on Friday said Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has repeated same things at the Congress' 'Chintan Shivir' to make the Gandhi family happy.

He alleged that the entire Congress is bowing down to one family only.

"The party has no vision and no thinking beyond the family. The Congress has been confined only to dynasty politics," Poonia said.

He said due to dynasty politics, pursuing policy of appeasement and corruption, the Congress has shrunk in the country and it is ruling only in the states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

"These two states will also be freed from the Congress," he said in a statement on Friday.

"Does Sonia Gandhi not know that under the rule of the Congress government in Rajasthan, violence broke out in Karauli, Jodhpur, Bhilwara, Bharatpur and Nohar. Who gave permission to PFI to hold a rally in Kota. Doesn't Sonia Gandhi see atrocities on the majority (community) in the state?" Poonia asked.

Till today, Gehlot has not gone to meet the victims of violence in these areas and no action has been taken against the guilty, he said.

"The government is only doing a cover-up, people of the other side are being implicated to hide the fault of one side. Congress is doing this for vote bank appeasement," he alleged.

"Modi government is working for the upliftment of everyone in the country with the resolve of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas," the BJP leader said.

If Sonia Gandhi wants to give any message from Congress's Chintan Shivir, then she should ask Gehlot to fulfill the promise of waiving off farmer loans made during the last assembly elections, he said.

"Ashok Gehlot should remember that emergency was imposed on the country under Congress' rule, people were put in jails, now under Congress rule, there are false cases against journalists and BJP leaders who raise public interest issues," he said.

The Congress began a three-day brainstorming session, Chintan Shivir, in Rajasthan's Udaipur on Friday.