Lok Sabha elections 2024: INDIA putting up good poll fight, Ram Mandir issue not working for BJP, says Prithviraj Chavan

18 April,2024 02:36 PM IST |  Karad  |  PTI

Chavan, who is the state Congress campaign committee chief, asserted opposition parties were determined to ensure anti-BJP votes don`t get divided

Prithviraj Chavan. File Photo

Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has noted the INDIA bloc has not emerged as powerful as it was originally conceived since some outfits stayed away from the opposition grouping but it is putting up a spirited fight against the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. The former Maharashtra Chief Minister claimed Ram Mandir has failed to click for the BJP as a political issue in the elections because of which the saffron party is floundering.

In an interview to PTI at Karad in his home district of Satara in western Maharashtra, he sought to dispel perception that the Congress got a "raw deal" in seat-sharing with Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies in the state, but admitted negotiations were tough since three parties were involved in talks.

Chavan, who is the state Congress campaign committee chief, asserted opposition parties were determined to ensure anti-BJP votes don't get divided.

"We have succeeded to a large extent (in bringing anti-BJP parties under one roof) even though the INDIA bloc is not as powerful as we had originally thought as some key components are not with us," noted the 78-year-old politician.

The INDIA alliance by and large has been successful in putting up a fight against the BJP, which along with its coalition partners, is eying more than 400 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, he said.

The Congress-dominated grouping, an amalgamation of more than two dozen parties opposed to the BJP, took shape last year to challenge the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

He expressed confidence that Lok Sabha poll results, when declared on June 4, will surprise all, especially in Maharashtra, which has 48 seats, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh (80).

"The MVA will do very well (in Maharashtra) and win more seats than the ruling Mahayuti alliance. Results will surprise all," said the former Union minister.

Chavan contended that smaller parties like the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) will only end up dividing anti-BJP votes.

The Ram Mandir issue is not working politically for the BJP so it is worried, Chavan claimed.

"Due to Balakot (airstrike on terror camps inside Pakistan), there was a 7 per cent swing in favour of the BJP (in 2019 polls). They expected Ram Mandir to create that swing (in 2024), but that is not happening. Ram Mandir has failed to click for the BJP," he emphasized.

Speaking about issues before electorates, Chavan maintained rising inflation and unemployment are hurting common citizens.

"In western Maharashtra, the percentage of educated unemployed is very high. There is a lot of (economic) disparity because of massive unemployment," the senior Congress leader said.

Another important issue is Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm products. Sugarcane and soybean growers are in a bad state as market rates (of these commodities) are very low, he noted.

"Exports stopped and then prices dropped. To reduce inflation all burdens are put on farmers," he said.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to withdraw the three contentious farm laws in 2021 after a year-long protest, he is pursuing ¿anti-farmer¿ policies, Chavan alleged.

The former CM said people were angry with the BJP over how the Shiv Sena and the NCP were split in Maharashtra and the MVA government was toppled in June 2022.

After engineering splits in the Shiv Sena and the NCP, attempts were made to break the Congress, too, but that failed, he noted.

Two to three disgruntled leaders left the Congress, but the party remains intact and it is now the largest opposition political formation in the state assembly, noted the MLA from Karad South.

The BJP is not playing a fair game and the opposition should be allowed to campaign freely, he said and referred to the arrest of a sitting chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal) and freezing of bank accounts of the Congress to allege obstruction in electioneering.

He said the MVA, consisting of the Congress, the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar), was a strong alliance within the INDIA bloc.

"The Congress endeavour is to avoid a split in opposition vote. There is 60-65 per cent vote against the BJP. But it gets split among different parties. We don't want that to happen," said Chavan.

Turning to state politics, the former CM rejected suggestions that the Congress had taken a backseat in seat-sharing talks with allies.

"We have tried to allocate seats based on past history, local strength (of parties) and electoral merit of candidates. But everyone cannot be pleased," he said.

Disagreements over a couple of Lok Sabha seats will not impact the three-party alliance in rest of the state, he maintained.

As per the seat-sharing formula worked out by the MVA, the Shiv Sena (UBT) will contest in 21 constituencies, the Congress 17 and the NCP (SP) 10.

"There is no junior or senior party in the MVA. Unfortunately, we won just one seat in 2019, while the undivided Shiv Sena (in alliance with BJP) bagged 18 seats. Our entire objective is to win maximum seats and dislodge the BJP from power," the Congress leader asserted.

On his name figuring as probable candidate for the Satara Lok Sabha seat, Chavan said, "The constituency belongs to NCP (SP) and (its president) Sharad Pawar decided to nominate Shashikant Shinde after considering various permutations and combinations."

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