INTERVIEW| 'It will be 2004 moment' on June 4; 'hugely impressive' turnaround in UP: Jairam Ramesh

The Congress leader also remarked that PM Modi was preparing a "communal pitch," but his party refused to play on it and successfully navigated his "googlies and bouncers."
Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.FILE Photo | Parveen Negi, EPS

NEW DELHI: Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said a "2004 moment" will be witnessed on June 4 with the INDIA bloc getting a clear mandate in the Lok Sabha polls and asserted that a primary factor in the alliance's "strong performance" would be a "hugely impressive" turnaround in Uttar Pradesh.

In an interview with PTI, Ramesh also used cricketing terminology to claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was nurturing a "communal pitch," but his party had refused to play on it and had also successfully navigated his "googlies and bouncers."

The Congress general secretary exuded confidence that the June 4 results day would be reliving of the "2004 moment" when the saffron party was unseated from power despite its 'shining India' campaign.

"This is a 2004 moment, you will see. People keep asking me who will be the prime minister, I must remind you that the results of the 2004 election came out on May 13, 2004. By May 17, it was clear that Manmohan Singh was going to be the prime minister. This time it may be even quicker, and in any case, elections in India are not a beauty contest, not a 'kaun banega PM', it is about which coalition will get a mandate," Ramesh told PTI.

"We are a party-centred democracy. We are not like the American system, it is not a beauty contest between individuals, it is a choice between parties. This is a 2004 moment. In 1962, a film was released based on the Sherlock Holmes mystery -- 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' -- 'Bees saal Baad' starring Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet...what happened in 2004, 'bees saal baad', you will see that repeating," he said.

Ramesh also expressed confidence that there would be a "dramatic turnaround" in Uttar Pradesh.

Noting that the road to Delhi is through Lucknow because Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats, Ramesh pointed out that the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra had gotten a tremendous response in places such as Prayagraj, Varanasi, Pratapgarh, Lucknow, Amethi, Rae Bareli, Aligarh, Moradabad, Amroha and Sambhal.

In Uttar Pradesh, youth, women, SCs, STs, and OBCs came out in support of the yatra, he said.

"I think there has been complete disenchantment and disillusionment with the PM because the people are fed up with him. He (Modi) is tired, he is jaded and he is faded. One of the primary contributing factors in our strong performance on June 4, when the results come out, would be a hugely impressive turnaround in UP," Ramesh said.

In the 2019 polls, the BJP had won 62 seats, NDA ally Apna Dal got 2 seats, while the Mahagathbandhan (SP, BSP, RLD) had won 15 seats and the Congress got one.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
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Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
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'Hindu-Muslim rhetoric and no Viksit Bharat'

Ramesh alleged that Modi had been indulging in polarisation throughout the election and preparing a "communal pitch," but the Congress refused to play on that and pursued its 'paach nyay' agenda.

Ramesh's attack came over Modi's remarks in an interview with PTI in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities and the BJP has "not just today but never" acted against them.

"I don't want to use the cricketing language too much. There is a pitch which he nurtures every day, and we still have nine days more. The campaigning ends on May 30. What new things he will bring on the communal pitch, only he knows, because he is the 3D master—the master of distortion, diversion and defamation," Ramesh said.

"He (PM Modi) is trying to bowl googlies, he is trying to bowl bouncers; he is doing 'bodyline' but we have successfully navigated his googlies and bouncers. We've bowled a few googlies and bouncers back at him, which he has tried to avoid but has not been able to avoid," Ramesh said in a lighter vein.

Ramesh claimed that Modi's entire campaign from April 19 has been based on "communalisation" with Hindu-Muslim rhetoric throughout and "no talk of Viksit Bharat, Modi ki guarantee, or issues of the farmers, youth, women, workers, SCs, STs and OBCs."

Asked about the remarks, Ramesh told PTI, "What nonsense is he talking about? This prime minister is fast losing his memory. He has never had any adherence to the truth. He is 'jhoothjeevi', but now what he says today, he forgets tomorrow and says he never said it."

"Of course he has been attacking the Congress party and has been talking of Hindu-Muslim," he said.

Ramesh said the PM had raised the issue of the 'Muslim League' imprint on the Congress manifesto, the mangalsutra remarks and the allegation that the Congress will give reservations on the basis of religion, which were all "bogus statements."

"This is the prime minister who, when asked some years ago whether he had any remorse at the killings during the Gujarat riots, said even when a small puppy comes under a car, one feels bad. This is the language that he has used," Ramesh said.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
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Meanwhile, Ramesh said that the combined effort of the 'paanch nyay pachchees guarantee' programme, the campaigning by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who have campaigned so magnificently, that has worked in the party's favour.

"Ultimately, it is the people who want to vote for us. It is 'people versus Modi', not just the INDIA 'janbandhan' versus Modi; it is the farmers versus Modi, women versus Modi; it is labour versus Modi; it is youth versus Modi; it is the social engeneering, the SCs, STs, and OBCs against Modi," the Congress general secretary said.

"This is an election when people are rising up very quietly and sending a message to this jaded and faded prime minister. You are the outgoing PM and on June 4, you will be going out," Ramesh said.

Elections have been held on 428 seats, but just after two phases, it was clear that the INDIA bloc will get a decisive mandate and the BJP will be 'saaf' in the South and half in the North, West, and East, he said, adding that his assessment is based on the feedback from workers and social organisations.

"After April 19, PM Modi's language has changed. He did not talk about viksit bharat but started his Hindu-Muslim rhetoric, mangalsutra, religion-based reservations, buffaloes, what all he has not said... he is preparing a communal pitch but we are not leaving our pitch of 'paanch nyay pachchees guarantees'," he said.

"I think the PM is rattled. He used to talk about 400 paar and Modi ki guarantee, but has forgotten about that. He is the outgoing Prime Minister and INDIA bloc will get a clear and decisive mandate on June 4," Ramesh said.

After the fifth phase on Monday, voting has been completed in 428 constituencies out of 543 in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Two more phases—on May 25 and June 1—are remaining now.

The counting of votes is on June 4.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
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Why is Modi 'silent' on caste census?

On Prime Minister Modi's remarks in the interview, asserting that even if one assumes he acts out of self-interest, his own welfare lies in the welfare of the Constitution, Ramesh said that on November 26, 1949, the Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly and BR Ambedkar made a speech a day before in which he said that without the Congress, the Constitution would not have been made possible.

"Four days after the Constitution was adopted, the Organiser, which is an RSS publication, says there is nothing Indian about the Constitution because there are no 'manuvadi values'. Subsequently, MS Golwalkar, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Mohan Bhagwat, Bibek Debroy, so many spokespersons have been attacking this Constitution, saying the time for this Constitution is over," Ramesh alleged.

The Congress leader said the Constitution is a flexible document that can be amended, but to do away with the document altogether "lock, stock and barrel" is another thing.

Ramesh claimed that when Atal Bihari Vajapayee became the prime minister, "LK Advani and company" wanted a committee to review the basic structure of the Constitution.

"They appointed Justice JMNR Venkatachaliah, a very distinguished former chief justice, to head the panel but he said I am not going to be a party to doing away with the basic structure of this Constitution," he said.

Subsequently, the BJP-led dispensation had to change the nature of the committee to one that would review the workings of the Constitution, he said.

"We (the Congress) of course boycotted that commission. So this has always been the objective of the BJP and the RSS. They are deeply uncomfortable and hostile to the idea of BR Ambedkar's Constitution because one of the pillars of this Constitution is social justice and the road to social justice is through reservation," he said.

Ramesh asked why Prime Minister Modi is "silent" on the issue of the caste census.

He also asked the prime minister to clarify his stance as to whether he will remove the 50 percent cap on reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs.

"Why has the PM not said a word on this? He is going around spreading an epidemic of lies that the Congress is giving reservations based on religion. Where have we given reservations based on religion? The 1994 reservations in Karnataka, which he keeps referring to, were given to minorities—Muslims, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists—based on socio-economic criteria, and that is how they were introduced in the reservation law," he said.

"Subsequently, the PM, in an interview to a TV channel had said he himself given reservation to Muslims by adding them to the OBC list. If the PM does it, it is not a religion-based reservation; if the Congress does it, even though it is based on socio-economic criteria, it is religion-based," Ramesh said.

Asked about the prime minister's remark that his Adani-Ambani comments were validated by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's comments, Ramesh said he does not know what the context of Chowdhury's remarks was but Modi should be asked why action has not been taken against the two businessmen.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh.
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