Mallikarjun Kharge | Photo: PTI
Chennai: Pitching for opposition unity to take on the BJP-led government in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said on Wednesday that he had never said "who will lead or who will become PM" and that the party is keen that the like-minded parties come together for the electoral challenge.
"All like-minded opposition parties should come together against the divisive forces. I never said who will lead or who will become PM. It's not the question. We want to fight together unitedly, this is our desire," Kharge said at an event to mark the 70th birthday celebrations of DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.
Kharge's remarks on Wednesday are seemingly at variance with his remarks in Bharat Yatra Jodo event in November last year in which he had said that Congress will bring non-BJP government to power under its leadership and that of Rahul Gandhi.
"If anyone will bring a non-BJP government, then under Rahul Gandhi's leadership, under Congress' leadership, we will do it. We have that strength in us," Kharge had said.
There are apparent differences in the opposition parties over the prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 battle. Some opposition parties are also rivals in states.
Kharge said the Congress-DMK alliance in Tamil Nadu has been successful and the two parties should lead "the foundation for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls victory".
"Congress-DMK alliance in Tamil Nadu led to Lok Sabha victories in 2004, 2009 and assembly victories in 2006 and 2021. We should continue to strengthen our alliance and lead foundation for the 2024 lok sabha victory for the UPA alliance," he said. DMK has been a key ally of the Congress.
In his remarks, Kharge also attacked the Modi government.
"More than 23 crore people have been pushed below the poverty line because of the failures of the BJP government. The common man is hit by inflation, youth are hit by unemployment but BJP is interested in polarising the society to win elections," he alleged.
During a rally in Nagaland which went to the polls on February 27, Kharge had said that an alliance government will come to power at the Centre in 2024 and the Congress will lead such an alliance.
In the political resolution adopted by Congress at its Plenary earlier this month, the party said that the assembly elections this year in nine states and 2024 Lok Sabha polls were "crucial for India's future" and there is an urgent need for united opposition to take on the BJP-led NDA government on ideological grounds.
It said the Congress would go all out to "identify, mobilise and align like-minded secular forces."
The resolution said emergence of any third force will provide advantage to the BJP.
"Unity of secular and socialist forces will be the hallmark of the future of the Congress party. Congress should go all out to identify, mobilise and align like-minded secular forces. We should include secular regional forces who agree with our ideology. There is an urgent need for a united opposition to take on the NDA on common ideological grounds."
The resolution said Congress will prepare a vision document for 2024, following a largest-ever mass contact programme, which will encompass issues of unemployment, eradication of poverty, inflation, women empowerment, job creation, national security.
In an apparent reference to Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks that BJP has no competition in 2024 polls, the Congress said it welcomes the challenge.
"It is quite shocking that BJP leaders have reached the pinnacle of arrogance by saying that the BJP has no competitors in 2024. This is a big challenge, not just to Congress and other parties, but to the democratic ethos of India. Congress welcomes this challenge!
"The 2023 Assembly elections to nine states and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are crucial for India's future. The choice before our people is crystal clear. The Congress must redefine political discourse by recapturing the centre space in the present polarised polity," the resolution said.
It said Congress should be absolutely clear about its ideology, "with which our forefathers fought for freedom, laid down their lives, and sustained democracy".
"The idea of India has been clearly laid down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that Congress stands for secularism, socialism and federalism. The Congress party will prepare a Vision Document for 2024, following a largest-ever mass contact programme, which will encompass issues of unemployment, eradication of poverty, inflation, women empowerment, job creation, national security," the resolution said.
"The Congress must reverse the current regressive path of growth without improving the lives of the poorest. Our growth mantra must have a human touch, creating livelihoods and employment opportunities. Congress will infuse new blood in leadership roles without creating new fault lines and cementing its ideological moorings. Congress will create a clear-cut role model and will catapult the party back to power both at the state and centre," it added.