INDIA bloc leaders target BJP; Rahul says launched yatras to highlight issues troubling public

People gather at Shivaji Park ground for the I.N.D.I.A bloc rally in Mumbai, Sunday, March 17, 2024.
People gather at Shivaji Park ground for the I.N.D.I.A bloc rally in Mumbai, Sunday, March 17, 2024.

Mumbai | Several opposition leaders targeted the ruling BJP from one platform on Sunday, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi stressing that he was compelled to launch his Bharat Jodo yatras to highlight rising unemployment, inflation and hatred in society.

In a show of strength, leaders of the INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) grouping assembled here for a mega rally ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which will be held in seven phases starting April 19.

Addressing the rally at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park after the conclusion of his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi won’t be able to win the Lok Sabha elections without “EVMs, ED, CBI and Income Tax”.

“Our fight against Modi is not on a personal level. Modi is a ‘mask’ who works for a ‘shakti’ (power). He is a shallow man who doesn’t have a 56-inch chest,” Gandhi said.

The former Congress president alleged that PM Modi had a “monopoly over corruption”.

“Do you think the Shiv Sena and NCP people split and joined the ruling alliance just like that,” he asked.

While Eknath Shinde led a split in the Shiv Sena in 2022 and aligned with the BJP to become the Maharashtra chief minister, Ajit Pawar triggered a similar upheaval in the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) last year.

Gandhi also claimed that a leader from Maharashtra cried in front of his mother Sonia Gandhi, saying he felt ashamed that he could not "fight this power any more and didn’t want to go to jail”.

He claimed Modi can’t win elections “without EVMs (electronic voting machines)”.

“We asked the Election Commission of India to count the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) also. But our demand hasn't been accepted,” he said.

The Congress MP from Wayanad said Mumbai's Dharavi could compete with the Chinese city of Shenzhen and become a manufacturing hub, but the government was not letting it happen, referring to the plan to redevelop the slum sprawl.

The INDIA bloc leaders appealed to people to exercise their franchise cautiously saying a third term for PM Modi will ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha polls will be the last elections in the country. They said the BJP wants over 400 seats to change the Constitution.

Modi’s guarantee is for the rich, while the opposition grouping’s guarantee is for the common man, said Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.

“I must tell Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray that those who left them shouldn’t be taken back,” he said, adding that such people will want to

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses during the party's 'Nyay Sankalp Sabha' in Mumbai, Sunday, March 17, 2024.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses during the party's 'Nyay Sankalp Sabha' in Mumbai, Sunday, March 17, 2024.

return to the INDIA fold when it comes to power.

Kharge asked people to vote in large numbers and cast their ballot cautiously, claiming that “another term for Modi will mean the upcoming polls will be the last elections in the country”.

Mahatma Gandhi gave 'Quit India' call from Mumbai, INDIA leaders should vow here to oust BJP from power, said NCP founder Sharad Pawar in his address.

“BJP has never fulfilled the assurances given to the people. Those who don’t honour commitments should be thrown out of power. Modi Guarantee has no security,” he said.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has been using ‘Modi ki Guarantee’ as a key campaign slogan to stress the party’s commitment to the development of all sections of society.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena (UBT) said, “When people unite, dictatorship ends. A country shouldn't be known after an individual. But now instead of Bharat Sarkar, it is being called Modi Sarkar. Do you want to change the country's name? It is time to banish the BJP and protect the Constitution.”

He said the BJP wants to win 400 Lok Sabha seats as it “wants to change the Constitution”. He also called the BJP a bubble and said his party inflated it, referring to its alliance with the undivided Shiv Sena for decades until a few years ago.

Speaking at the rally, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said governments are being toppled with the help of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“Our fight is against the ideology of hate, not personally against PM Modi or (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah," said the former Bihar deputy chief minister.

PDP president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said BJP people are afraid of “Gandhi” in Rahul Gandhi’s name

“BJP speaks of winning more than 400 Lok Sabha seats to change the Constitution,” she said.

Jharkhand ex-CM Hemant Soren's wife Kalpana Soren also spoke at the event. She said her husband was jailed as part of a conspiracy. ED has

arrested Hemant Soren in a money laundering case.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin described the electoral bonds as “white collar corruption” of the ruling BJP and said their alliance would form a secular, federal and inclusive government at the Centre. He was the first speaker at the rally.

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief and Dr B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar attended the rally but did not categorically spell out if he was a part of the opposition alliance.

“Whether together or alone, you need to fight. Bengal has gone separate ways. Here there are attempts to come together,” he said, referring to Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee’s plan to go solo in West Bengal in the general elections.

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