"What Are They In BJP?": M Kharge On Rahul Gandhi Aides Who Defected

Mallikarjun Kharge told NDTV that he is confident that INDIA bloc will stop the BJP from returning to power

'What Are They In BJP?': M Kharge On Rahul Gandhi Aides Who Defected

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to NDTV in an exclusive interview

New Delhi:

Hitting out at prominent leaders who switched to the BJP, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has said the ones who left were not rooted in the party's ideology. In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Mr Kharge said, "They would move around with Rahul Gandhi. He ensured that they get ministerial berths, helped them create a political identity. Now suddenly, they remember Ram Temple?"

Asked about these leaders' claim that they were not growing within the Congress organisation, Mr Kharge said, "Those who were not rooted in our ideology have switched sides. They say they did not get importance here. Are they getting it in BJP? What is their identity there? They switched because they were scared."

Mr Kharge said the Congress is hopeful of a good show in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls and that the BJP tally reached its high point in the last election. "We will do well in Rajasthan, we won't score a zero this time. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, too, we will get some seats. Last time, we won just one seat in Maharashtra. But this time, the Maha Vikas Aghadi is fighting strongly and will win at least 30 seats. The BJP's tally is decreasing. They reached their peak, they cannot go beyond that. But we are scoring where we lost," he said.

Asked how many seats the INDIA Opposition bloc may win, Mr Kharge said that he does not want to mention an exact figure, but "we will stop the BJP from returning to power".

On Nitish Kumar's surprise switch back to the NDA, Mr Kharge said, "Such people would have gone at some point anyway. He called people to his home and spoke about an (Opposition) alliance. And then he switched as per his convenience. We are not worried. Those who are ideologically committed are important. If he left after winning, that would have been bad," he said. Asked if the Congress will be open to accept Mr Kumar back into the INDIA fold if he wants to return, Mr Kharge said, "Such people do not stay. Now he has sworn that he won't come to this side. They are hungry for power."

The Congress chief was also asked about Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose ties with the Congress have been rocky. The Congress and Trinamool are contesting separately in Bengal. Ms Banerjee recently accused the Congress and its ally CPM of being hand-in-glove with the BJP.

Evading a direct reply, Mr Kharge said, "It is not right to talk repeatedly about her. It will be good if she joins forces with us after we win. If she doesn't, we will strategise accordingly."

On Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's political role within the Congress, Mr Kharge said she has huge popularity and mass appeal. "Wherever she goes, people come out. People like her a lot, but she cannot campaign everywhere. She has worked very hard. Both Rahul and Priyanka are very hardworking," he said.

Countering Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "shehzada" jab at Rahul Gandhi, Mr Kharge said, "Modi Sahab is the prince, he changes a kurta every hour and a jacket every two hours. Such people are calling Rahul Gandhi prince."

Asked who will be the INDIA bloc's face if it wins the election, the Congress chief replied that the alliance will decide this. "How can we measure the baby's head before its birth?"