"INDIA Ahead After 5 Phases, BJP Facing Defeat": M Kharge To NDTV

Formed in June last year, the Congress-led INDIA bloc was expected to unite the opposition and mount a concerted challenge to Prime Minister Modi and the BJP.

'INDIA Ahead After 5 Phases, BJP Facing Defeat': M Kharge To NDTV

Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge spoke exclusively to NDTV.

New Delhi:

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge has backed the INDIA bloc to come up trumps against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, arguing that mega wins in the 2014 and 2019 polls - in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party scored 282 and 303 seats on its own, and 336 and 353 with allies - meant it had reached a saturation point in terms of votes it might win.

In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Mr Kharge said the BJP's failure to fulfil promises made over the previous two terms (10 years) would also count against it, and highlighted issues like unemployment and the cost of living crisis to make his point - that it is necessary to remove the BJP government to "strengthen democracy and save the Constitution".

"Even after five phases (the 2024 election is spread across seven phases, with the fifth completed on Monday and the sixth scheduled for Saturday) the INDIA bloc is ahead. This is because Modiji did not fulfil promises he made... the people waited for 10 years..."

"But today they are facing inflation on a large scale and are worried. Young children, troubled by unemployment, are wandering on the streets," Mr Kharge told NDTV.

Formed in June last year, the INDIA bloc was expected to unite the opposition and mount a concerted challenge to Mr Modi and the BJP. The group - which includes the AAP, Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK, the Samajwadi Party, and Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena faction as members - has fielded common candidates in a majority of the seats in this election.

However, seat-sharing disagreements with some others has meant the Congress has been forced into 'friendly contests', including against the Trinamool in Bengal and CPIM in Kerala. 

Many believe these fractures will materially affect the group's chance of defeating the BJP, but Mr Kharge insisted, "The opposition is on the winning side and they are on the decline."

To defeat the BJP the INDIA bloc will have to do two things. 

One - to retain and build on the opposition's edge over the saffron party in the southern states. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Puducherry send 130 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In 2019, the BJP was routed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and won just four of 17 seats in Telangana. The only big score was in Karnataka, where it got 25 of 28 seats. An even stronger showing is needed this time around.

All the southern states have completed voting.

The second task is to slash the BJP's advantage in the Hindi heartland. 

In 2019 the party won a staggering 204 of the 226 seats in the 10 Hindi-speaking states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. In 2014 it won 191 seats.

This is where, Mr Kharge told NDTV, the INDIA bloc will shine, insisting, "We have a lead in every state... they are decreasing. Because they have got the maximum they were supposed to get. Now they won't get more than that. Where we lost, (now) we have jumped."

The Congress chief said he expected positive results from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP dominated, winning 53 of 54 seats. "In Rajasthan will do well. This time we will not get zero. We will get seats in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well."

In Maharashtra, where the Congress is allied with Mr Thackeray's Shiv Sena group and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, Mr Kharge said, "Last time we got one seat in Maharashtra. This time we are going to get at least thirty seats."

"We will get good seats in Karnataka (too)... 50 per cent is our target," he said.

Referring to the overall picture, Mr Kharge said, "The trend we are getting will show that we will stop the BJP from coming back to power. I cannot say (how many we will get)... 273, 28), 290... (but) we are getting a lot, yes. We will come to power."

On the question of a prime ministerial candidate - which the INDIA bloc does not have and which the BJP has pointed out gleefully - Mr Kharge said, "The alliance will decide."

The Congress leader pointed out it is premature to talk about a PM face at this point, explaining, "If we have not given birth to a child, then how can I tell the size of the head?"