March 24, 2023

New Delhi: No opposition front capable of opposing the BJP is possible without the Congress, and if a coalition is formed for the 2024 general election, the party will play a central role in them, said senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

However, in an interview with PTI, Ramesh said that it is too early to talk about all this now, as the first priority of the Congress is the upcoming elections in Karnataka and a string of state polls this year.

Ramesh’s remarks came after the Trinamool Mamata Banerjee Congress (TMC) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh said the two parties would stay away from both the Congress and the BJP and pointed to possible negotiations with other regional players before Congress. 2024 Lok Sabha elections

Asked if the actions of the PVS and SP could undermine the unity of the opposition, Ramesh said: “PVS, Samajwadi, people keep meeting, Third Front, Fourth Front will continue to form, but it is necessary that the Congress be in opposition.”

“If an opposition coalition is formed, the Congress will play a central role in it. No front is possible without the Congress. But it’s too early to talk about it yet,” he told PTI.

First elections in Karnataka, then elections in Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram, he said.

“We will be fully occupied with state elections this year, we will see about the 2024 elections later,” said the former union minister.

“Meetings will continue now, positioning will continue … “I will form a third front, I will form a fourth front, I will form a fifth front,” all this will continue,” he added.

Ramesh argued that a stronger Congress was needed for any opposition alliance, but the party’s priority at the moment was elections in Karnataka, followed by elections in other states.

“Our (Party) President Mallikarjun Harge and senior leaders will work on whatever strategy needs to be prepared and will negotiate with the parties regarding the 2024 elections,” he said.

Asked if the PVS’s abstaining from the opposition’s protests on the Adani issue and the NCP’s withdrawal of all support had undermined opposition unity, he said: “No, I don’t think so. PVS may have its own logic, I don’t want to say anything more than that.”

He said 16 political parties have come together in a demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to investigate the Adani issue.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) did not sign the letter to the director of the Executive Office, but they were with us in spirit, if not body, he said.

“There are 16 parties and let me be very categorical that the Supreme Court Committee cannot replace the JPC. The powers of the committee of the Supreme Court are limited in scope, only the JPC can reveal all aspects of this political and economic scam,” he said on the issue of Adani.

“Whatever Mr. Adani did in India and abroad, he did it with the full blessing, support and patronage of the Prime Minister. The investigation supervised by the Supreme Court does not address any of these issues,” he said.

The Congress Party has raised 93 questions so far, we will soon reach 100, Ramesh said, referring to the “Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun” series of parties in which she questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Adani issue.

“We have raised 93 issues so far. Those types of questions that are very small, pinpoint, detailed, specific, fall outside the scope of the investigation, controlled by the Supreme Court. Thus, this JPC is absolutely necessary. The Supreme Court investigation is not a substitute, it is just an attempt to legitimize and justify,” Ramesh said.

Asked if attempts to create a third front would undermine the fight against the BJP, Ramesh said the Congress is now focused on getting its JPC demands met.

“Efforts are now being made to ensure that our voices are heard, and this false propaganda and rumors that are spreading, this intimidation, this persecution that is being taken against Mr. Gandhi in particular, we can resist. All other questions can wait,” he said.

Asked if Adani’s issue would resonate with people on the ground, Ramesh said, “We have to do what we have to do.”

According to the general secretary of the Congress, the party has held press conferences across the country, raised three issues daily for the past 31 days, and will continue to raise them.

“Mr. Gandhi spoke at length about this in the LoK Sabha, Mr. Harj raised these issues extensively in the Rajya Sabha, although their remarks were subsequently omitted. Therefore, we will continue to do what we must do. We think these are fundamental questions,” he said.

The Congress believes in liberalization and in giving full incentives to private companies and private entrepreneurs, he said.

“India’s economic growth will be fueled by private investment, entrepreneurs and start-ups, but the Congress Party opposes this kind of cronyism where one business group gets the Prime Minister’s full backing,” he said.

Congress wants liberalization, deregulation because the country needs faster exports, much more private investment, but it’s against the kind of blind privatization we’ve seen with airports, he said.

As for undermining rather than debate becoming the norm, Ramesh said the opposition has no voice as it is also not allowed to discuss issues like Adani, China and also economic issues.

“One of the fundamental rules of parliamentary democracy is that the opposition must have its say and the government will get its way. We know we don’t have numbers in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, but we’re not even allowed to have our say,” he said.

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