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NDA's '400 paar' slogan smacks of arrogance, BJP should present factual report card of last 10 yrs: Pilot


PTI04_01_2024_000148B?w=280

NEW DELHI: Lord Ram belongs to everyone and the BJP cannot have a monopoly over him or religion no matter how hard it tries, says senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot, asserting that the INDIA bloc will fight the Lok Sabha polls on people's issues rather than emotive ones.

The Congress general secretary also exuded confidence that the opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) will get a majority and form the next government.

In an interview with PTI at the news agency's headquarters here, the Congress general secretary said the NDA's "400 paar" slogan "smacks of arrogance."

"It is very well for the BJP to talk about a blueprint of its first 100 days of returning to power for a third term but how about giving a report card of the last 10 years?" he asked while calling on the Election Commission to ensure a level playing field for all political parties.

On the issue of Income Tax department notices to the Congress, facing a demand of over Rs 3,500 crore, he said the “coercive action” taken by the government in actually freezing the accounts of the principal opposition party is unprecedented. It does not augur well for a healthy democracy, he added.

Despite all that is happening, Pilot said, he has faith in the voters, in what the Congress stands for, and emphasised that the INDIA bloc will secure a majority when the election results are counted on June 4.

The former Rajasthan deputy chief minister also claimed the BJP was on the "backfoot" and the Congress was primed to do "exceedingly well" in the desert state this time after drawing a blank in the last two Lok Sabha elections.

Asked about claims that a Ram temple wave was sweeping north India and the INDIA bloc's plans to overcome it, Pilot said, "I think this election will be fought on issues that are extremely relevant to our present and our future. Recent efforts to systematically undermine constitutional institutions, will be one such issue. We want to bring to the fore the problems faced by the youth, women, farmers, we want to give legal guarantee for MSP, these are the things that matter to the average voter."

Pilot said he does not think the Indian voter appreciates an election agenda based on religion, Hindu-Muslim, Mandir-Masjid issues, and underscored that polls should be fought on economic policy, job creation, reducing inflation and securing a better future for our farmers.

"No matter how much the BJP tries, it cannot have a monopoly over religion or Lord Ram. Ram belongs to everyone, he is omnipresent, and an attempt to try and limit him to a party or a government is in itself a futile exercise."

Elaborating on the issue, Pilot said, "The Ram temple was constructed after the Supreme Court gave its final verdict which was acceptable to all parties. Now the truth is that it was the Supreme Court that decided what'll happen. We in the Congress welcomed that as did everybody else... that laid to rest all disputes and contentions.”

So the construction of the temple did not happen because of a party or a government but because of the court's final judgment, which was acceptable and appreciated by all, he stressed.

"... We all welcomed the construction of the temple, who can be against it? But to use that platform, that judgment and that construction as a political ploy to kind of harness the political dividends that come out of this emotional issue is wrong because the state and religion have two separate entities," the Congress leader said.

Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking about a blueprint of his first 100 days of a third term and the difference in confidence levels between the ruling party and the opposition, the former Union minister said it is wrong to prejudge the mandate that the people will give.

"We have to open ourselves up to a fair game, fight elections on issues and concerns of the average citizen that are important to the voters of our country and let the people decide who will serve them best," he asserted.

"We (Congress) are very strong and committed to what we believe is true and important for the country and want to give a blueprint and a roadmap for India's future for the next five years…," Pilot said.

He said the government must answer on having created record unemployment, soaring inflation, agrarian crisis, unprecedented gap between the rich and the poor. These things, he added, are missing from the BJP's agenda.

Pilot said he wants the elections to be fair, open, transparent, credible and truly reflect the deep rooted democracy India has come to represent.

"I am confident (of majority for INDIA bloc). If you look at the vote share of the INDIA bloc partners in 2019, it was 65 percent, while the NDA got 35 percent and that is why there is a sense of urgency in the BJP ranks, they are now trying to import leaders from the opposition," he said.

If they were so confident of 400 seats, why would they want to take people from ours and other opposition parties, he asked.

Discussing the party's prospects in Chhattisgarh, Pilot said the party had not done well there traditionally in the Lok Sabha polls in the past with its best tally being two seats but is on a strong footing this time.

"I won't give you numbers but we will do quite well in Chhattisgarh and win a majority of the 11 seats of the state," Pilot said.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)