Congress Leader in the Lok Sabha M. Mallikarjun Kharge, who has won all the 11 elections he has contested in a row — nine Assembly and two Lok Sabha — is seeking re-election from Kalaburagi. The leader, who faces a tough challenge this time, spoke to The Hindu amid a hectic campaign. Excerpts.
This election is a very important one in my long political life. India’s Constitution and democracy are under threat in the BJP-led rule. No party in power in the past had ever said openly that they were going to change the Constitution.
The BJP, backed by the RSS, is the first one to do so and they are serious about it. It is a battle between the values of the Constitution and those of the Manusmriti, between democracy and dictatorship, between secularism and communalism, and federalism and unitary system. If the BJP comes back to power, they will change the Constitution which gave a new lease of life to millions of deprived and downtrodden. The present election will decide the direction of the country.
The BJP manifesto expectedly focusses on emotional issues such as Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The Ram temple issue is in the court and yet they have included it in their manifesto. The purpose is not to really build the Ram temple, but to provoke communities against each other and polarise the votes. [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee was in power for six years and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for five years.
If the BJP really wanted a Ram temple built in Ayodhya, wouldn’t 11 years be sufficient to settle the issue? They want to keep the issue alive forever so that it would keep on polarising votes for the BJP in every election. But the Congress manifesto focusses on the issues and programmes that could make people’s lives better.
Whenever we have come up with poverty alleviation and welfare programmes such as the Food Security Bill, MGNREGA, and the Right to Education Act, the BJP has reacted in the same way. But we have proved them wrong by the successful implementation of these programmes. Didn’t we offer free rice to each BPL family in Karnataka?
The BJP neither comes up with such welfare programmes on its own nor does it allow others to introduce and implement them. NYAY scheme was drafted after thoroughly examining its practicality in consultation with experts.
Mr. Modi feels that I am a great inconvenience to him in the Lok Sabha since I have spoken in Parliament over the last five years with data to expose the misdeeds of the government. That is why he is seriously trying to defeat me. A huge amount of money is being pumped and distributed through the right-wing network to defeat me.
This is a very dangerous development. Mr. Modi is projecting himself as a great leader that India had never seen. It is about ‘Modi once more’ and not BJP once more. The entire party is running behind him. It is not good for any democracy.
No. Even when they were in the Congress, they were not of much help. Their presence in the party or exit will not impact the poll results much.