Conscious decision by Congress to contest on lesser seats to keep Opposition together: Kharge

The Congress chief said every state has a different alliance, but we are all fighting against the BJP's and Modi ji's ideology.
Congress President  Mallikarjun Kharge
Congress President Mallikarjun KhargePhoto | EPS

NEW DELHI: The Congress has consciously contested on a lesser number of seats in this Lok Sabha election as part of a strategy to keep the INDIA bloc together and defeat the BJP, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has said.

In an interview with PTI, he said this does not exhibit "under-confidence" on the part of the party as the "compromise was struck to ensure victory of the united opposition while giving space to other parties which have strengths in different parts of the country".

Kharge also termed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra an "asset" and a star campaigner and justified her decision to not contest the elections.

Asked which seat Rahul Gandhi should leave, in case he wins both Wayanad and Rae Bareli, Kharge said it is his personal choice.

Congress President  Mallikarjun Kharge
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"We have taken a conscious decision to contest on a lesser number of seats. This is being done to keep the alliance partners together and that's why we have made this compromise," he told PTI.

Kharge said the Congress had formed a committee to forge coalitions in every state after holding consultations with other like-minded parties.

"The party high command approved this strategy. We have held consultations in every state," he said.

The Congress is contesting 328 seats, its lowest-ever, leaving more than 200 seats for the other opposition parties in the INDIA bloc.

On many alliance partners fighting against each other in states like Kerala, Bengal, and Punjab, he said, "There is no disunity in fighting against the central government. In states, we are fighting as both INDIA parties are key in some states, otherwise it will benefit the BJP."

The Congress chief said every state has a different alliance, "but we are all fighting against the BJP's and Modi ji's ideology."

"The parties have taken a well-thought out line which is in the interest of the nation," he asserted.

To a question that opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal are not even united in predicting the NDA numbers, he said, every leader has a different assessment.

"I can do proper assessment in Karnataka as I know the state well and know everything. Different feedback comes from different states. But, as I have said, the numbers required for stopping the BJP from coming to power, we in the INDIA alliance have those numbers and we will stop the BJP from assuming power," he said.

Kharge, however, did not give a definite reply on SP's Akhilesh Yadav saying there is no need for ED, CBI and they should be banned.

"If our government comes, we will review all the laws. Whatever that is being done to harass people, we will oppose it. No one has adopted such a procedure of misusing probe agencies as has been done by the BJP. There should be probes and proper inquiries, but the BJP is itself creating evidence, cases and putting people behind bars," he alleged.

He also questioned why the opposition leaders were being put behind bars ahead of the elections.

"Why did they not arrest them earlier when they were in power for the last 10 years? " Elections are going on and here leaders are being threatened and harassed and put behind bars, not leaving them even to campaign.

"There is no level playing field being maintained by the BJP, as opposition leaders are being threatened.

These things are not good for a democracy and an authoritarian rule is being implemented," the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha asserted.

He justified Priyanka Gandhi not contesting the election, saying it was a decision taken by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and her.

Sonia Gandhi has been in politics for 30 years and she knows who should contest from where, he said.

"She (Priyanka) is also our star campaigner, along with Rahul Gandhi, as Sonia Gandhi ji is not keeping very good health. They are in demand and thousands come to listen to them."

"Both of them are our assets and if we invest all our assets at one place, then what about others as they have to help others too. We welcome whatever decision they have taken," the Congress chief said.

Congress President  Mallikarjun Kharge
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Asked which seat should Rahul hold, if he wins both Wayanad and Raebareli, he said, "It is Rahul Gandhi's individual decision and he will take a call on this."

He also justified several party stalwarts deciding to keep themselves away from contesting, saying some had fought assembly elections and it is their strategy to make their own people contest in their place.

"Besides, we also need senior leaders to do campaigning for the party across the country in the national election. We cannot ask everyone to contest. We are strengthening those who are contesting, but equally important are those who make the party's strategy in elections," he noted.

The Congress president accused the BJP of "suppressing democracy and opposing the Constitution" and said this is the reason why this election is very significant for everyone - from children to the old, and from print media to television and even social media users.

Congress President  Mallikarjun Kharge
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