INDIA discusses the Modi challenge at Mumbai meet | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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INDIA discusses the Modi challenge at Mumbai meet

Sep 02, 2023 02:59 AM IST

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi addressed the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) meeting, debunking three myths about PM Modi.

Mumbai Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi told the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) meeting on Friday that there were three myths about Prime Minister Narendra Modi that needed to be busted – incorruptible, improving India’s global standing and welfare of backward and Dalit groups – underlining the grouping’s tough challenge of taking on the popular incumbent in the 2024 general elections.

Opposition leaders during the INDIA meet, in Mumbai on Friday. (PTI) PREMIUM
Opposition leaders during the INDIA meet, in Mumbai on Friday. (PTI)

At the day-long meeting of the Opposition bloc in Mumbai, a number of leaders discussed key issues that could be taken up before the elections and stressed on the need to get poll-ready quickly. Many parties pushed for urgent election preparations, saying that time was running out.

Also read: At INDIA alliance Mumbai meet, Opposition slams Centre's 'one-nation, one-election' move

Addressing the leaders, Gandhi alleged that a myth was created that Modi was incorruptible and that his government had a clean image, said people aware of developments. The Congress leader tried to argue that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government mastered the art of invisible corruption, offering the example of the Rafale controversy. “They even manipulate the GDP figures,” Gandhi alleged.

He also said that a number of malpractices were flagged by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and that the fresh allegations on the Adani Group was a glaring example of how the government permitted illegal activities, said the people cited above.

Gandhi told INDIA leaders that the second myth was that the current regime had lifted India’s image on global platforms, arguing that the country’s status took a beating instead. “You will notice that wherever he goes, people come out to protest against his government,” Gandhi said, according to the people cited above. He cited other incidents such as remarks of global leaders and articles in international publications to drive home his point.

The Congress leader highlighted the government’s claims of other backward classes (OBC) welfare as a third myth. Though the Narendra Modi government has announced a number of schemes for OBCs, including one declared on Independence Day, Gandhi said the current dispensation did not do anything for marginalised communities. “We have to go to the people and tell them that this government has not done anything for the OBCs and scheduled castes. There might be a number of schemes on paper, but the budget for these communities have been slashed,” he said, according to the people cited in the first instance.

In the Mumbai meeting – the third of the grouping after Patna in June and Bengaluru in July – no one raised the issue of appointing a convener and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, one of the names making the rounds, made it clear in his speech that he was not aiming for any post, said a leader present in the meeting.

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray suggested that when the 14-member coordination committee – which was announced on Friday – meets, the members could discuss among themselves and appoint a convener if needed, said a leader present at the meeting, requesting anonymity.

In the meeting, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had an argument with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar over the caste census—a politically sensitive topic. According to leaders present in the meeting, Kumar spoke about the importance of a caste census and insisted that the issue be highlighted by the alliance. Bihar is compiling the data of a caste survey undertaken by Kumar’s government earlier this year.

But Banerjee disagreed with him and asked why all issues needed to be discussed at this stage, said the leader quoted above. “She was of the opinion that the election management committee should meet and discuss this issue. She also hinted that the exercise is being given religious colour in some parts of India,” said a second leader present in the meeting.

In West Bengal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has targeted Banerjee, alleging that many Muslims were illegally being given OBC status. Later, the Trinamool Congress clarified that Banerjee was not against the caste census, but if such an exercise invoked any religious angle, the party would not support it.

Also read: 'Impossible for BJP to win because...' Rahul Gandhi from INDIA alliance stage

“Kumar, on the other hand, felt that caste census is an important issue and the Mumbai meeting itself should make an announcement to help the alliance to reach out to the people with a definite promise,” said a third leader.

Many parties – including the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party – pushed for a faster pace in poll preparations as time was running out, said the leader quoted above. A number of leaders spoke about the possibility of early elections and suggested that the seat sharing agreements should be in place by October 15, he added.

The Congress proposed the next INDIA meeting be held in Bhopal while Banerjee proposed that a mini agenda of the bloc be declared from Rajghat on October 2, the leader said. Banerjee also said that instead of a long text, the vision document or mini agenda of the grouping should have bullet points, a proposal that found instant support from Left leader Sitaram Yechury, he added.

Hitting back, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “In the third meeting of the so-called alliance, there was no vision for the development of India, no roadmap for the upliftment of the poor, no strategy to address concerns of farmers or women and children. The most important is that there was not even an acknowledgement of the threat to India from terrorism, radicalisation and successionist forces.”

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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