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INDIA bloc intact, will cross 272; Prime Minister’s corruption pitch ‘hollow’: Jairam Ramesh

NEW DELHI: The INDIA bloc is intact despite Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ”somersault” and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee deciding to be Mamata Banerjee, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said, rejecting as ”hollow” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch against the opposition on corruption. In an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency’s headquarters here, Ramesh also said the opposition will unitedly cross the halfway mark of 272 in the elections and oust the BJP from power.

He spoke on a range of issues including electoral bonds, the arrests of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and JMM leader Hemant Soren, who resigned as Jharkhand CM, and also addressed speculations around Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra potentially contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Amethi and Raebareli, respectively. ”Look at the way the electoral bonds scheme has worked. Rs 4,000-crore of bonds are directly linked with Rs 4-lakh crore of contracts. There is a clear correlation between the electoral bonds and the award of contracts,” Ramesh said, claiming that a BJP MP buys electoral bonds after getting infrastructure contracts.

He said they have evidence that bonds worth Rs 4,000 crores purchased by several companies in favour of the BJP are directly linked to the award of contracts and action initiated by central agencies against them, he said.

”To say that Mr Modi is going to take the corruption plank and use Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal as examples that he is fighting corruption is absolutely a bogus argument. Look at the electoral bonds saga, it is a complete case of quid pro quo,” the Congress leader said.

”There is ample evidence to show that the corruption is a ‘khokhla (hollow) plank’ as far as Mr Modi is concerned.” On opposition unity, he said all 28 parties were together up to December 19 ”but Nitish Kumar did a somersault and Mamata Banerjee decided to be Mamata Banerjee. These are the two things that have happened”.

”The fact that Nitish Kumar is not part of the INDIA bloc does not mean that the INDIA bloc has collapsed,” Ramesh said, asserting the opposition will certainly cross the halfway mark. ”Yes, I’m sure that it will add up to 272.” Asked if the INDIA bloc bubble has burst, he said, ”No, no. Where has it burst?” The alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party is intact as is the tie-up with the NCP, Shiv Sena, the DMK and JMM, the Congress leader asserted. ”Our alliance with CPM and CPI is going to be finalised in West Bengal. We have an 11-party alliance in Assam and we have an alliance with the Samajwadi Party.” ”Mamata Banerjee has said that she is part of the INDIA bloc. She is not seat-sharing with us, but she is very much part of the INDIA bloc,” he said.

On how Kejriwal’s arrest would impact the opposition, especially as the PM making corruption an issue using the cases of the Delhi CM and Hemant Soren, Ramesh said, ”’Chanda do, dhanda lo (quid pro quo)’ is becoming obvious, after the electoral bonds issue”.

”It is true that Mr Modi will use this Hemant Soren and Kejriwal cases to say that he is cleaning up the system, but he has not cleaned up the system. Evidence shows, this is completely to the contrary,” Ramesh asserted.

On opposition parties, including the Congress, also getting donation worth crores of rupees through electoral bonds, he said they do not have central probe agencies and cannot grant central contracts to companies.

”There is clear evidence that we have put out which shows there are 30 companies against whom ED and CBI was used and Rs 330-crore worth donations came through these 30 companies,” he said.

On whether Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will contest Amethi and Rae Bareli seats respectively or have they abandoned their family pocket boroughs in Uttar Pradesh, Ramesh said, ”Rahul Gandhi had said that he is a loyal soldier of the party and if the CEC asks him to contest, he will do so.” He also rejected insinuations that senior Congress leaders are reluctant to contest the Lok Sabha polls. ”None of the senior leaders are escaping contesting these Lok Sabha elections. I don’t think there is any leader who has been asked to contest and is not contesting.” Asked if the Congress was looking beyond Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, Ramesh said the Gandhi scion is there and is leading the organisation and has undertaken the Bharat Jodo Yatras, which no other leader in the country has.

”His politics is a different type of politics. His politics is the politics of movement. He wants to revitalise and revamp the organisation,” he said.

Ramesh said Gandhi has been ”extraordinarily successful” in infusing new energy in the organisation and all have been forced to look upon him differently after the Bharat Jodo Yatras led by him.

”If you look at the pre-Bharat Jodo Yatra and post-Yatra, it is not yes, but… The commentariat class has been forced to look at him differently,” he asserted.

Ramesh also claimed that every opposition leader had joined the Yatra in the states as there was nobody who did not join the Yatra, except Mamata Banerjee, which was due to reasons peculiar to West Bengal.

On the Congress’s counter to the BJP’s Ram temple issue, Ramesh said, ”There cannot be one strategy, there can’t be a ‘jadu ki chhadi’ (magic wand). We cannot generate a counter.” The seven-phase Lok Sabha polls will be held between April 19 and June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.


Source: Press Trust of India

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