INDIA bloc puts up show of strength

The arrests of Arvind Kejriwal and Hemant Soren acted as a catalyst for the rally which saw the participation of 17 parties…reports Asian Lite News

With less than three weeks to go for the Lok Sabha elections, the Opposition’s INDIA bloc Sunday put up a show of strength in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. The leaders present underlined the need to draw inspiration from the Hindu epic Ramayana’s depiction of “triumph of Lord Rama” despite being short on resources compared to his rival Ravana to end the run of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While the arrests of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren acted as a catalyst for the rally — which witnessed the participation of 17 parties — it also saw Kejriwal’s wife Sunita reading out election “guarantees”, and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra placing “demands” including the “immediate release” of the arrested leaders and a Supreme Court monitored probe into the scrapped electoral bonds scheme.

The issue of electoral bonds, however, was not a refrain, but only a passing reference in some speeches at the rally.

The organiser Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went the extra mile, including taking down a poster showing Kejriwal behind bars from the front of the dais minutes before the event began, to assuage Congress’s concerns about the rally being “just about Kejriwal and Soren” and not about “India’s imperilled democracy and constitution”.

While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi outlined the potential “threats” that the BJP poses to the Indian Constitution, Priyanka invoked the “values of Lord Rama”, which, she said, were needed as a reminder to “those who call themselves Ram bhakts (devotees)”. Also present on the dais was former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who sat beside Sunita Kejriwal and Hemant Soren’s wife Kalpana.

“I used to come here (Ramlila Maidan) as a child with my grandmother Indira Gandhi, who taught me Ram gatha. Today, those in power call themselves ram bhakts, so I thought I should remind them that what they are indulging in is exhibitionism. The message of ram gatha is that when Lord Rama fought for the truth, he lacked power, resources, or even a chariot. Ravana had access to all that and more including gold and an army. Ram had truth, courage, love, determination and modesty. I also want to remind Modiji that the message of Ram gatha is also that power is ephemeral, it comes and goes, arrogance is shattered,” Priyanka said.

With the Ayodhya Ram Mandir consecration ceremony a centre piece of the ruling BJP’s electoral campaign, particularly in the heartland states, the Opposition has often found itself struggling in crafting a response to draw Hindu votes to its fold. Priyanka’s forceful intervention appeared aimed at that elephant in the room.

Speaking before Priyanka, Kalpana Soren — whose growing involvement in the affairs of Jharkhand’s ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) since the arrest of her husband has been a subject of discussion — made a similar point, underlining the need to absorb the essence of Lord Ram in the “truest sense”.

“Lord Rama followed principles, rules and ideals even during war time. He embodied tolerance despite being powerful and treated opponents with dignity,” she said, calling herself the voice of the women and Adivasis.

Hemant Soren, who handed over the baton of chief ministership to Champai Soren, was arrested on the evening of 31 January by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged land scam case.

The role of ED, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax Department in going after Opposition leaders in various cases was brought up by nearly every leader who addressed the gathering. The speech by Sunita Kejriwal, who has also found herself thrust into the spotlight ever since the arrest of her husband and AAP chief, was her first in a major rally such as the one at Ramlila Maidan Sunday.

“Our prime minister has put my husband in jail. Has he done the right thing? The BJP is saying he should resign. Should he resign?” she asked, drawing a loud “No” from the crowd. “Kejriwal is a lion. They will not be able to keep him in jail for too long,” she said, before going on to announce “six guarantees of the INDIA alliance” as drafted by the AAP supremo.

The CM also apologised, through his wife, to the INDIA bloc leaders for having “unilaterally declared the guarantees”. “I could not consult you all since I am in jail,” Sunita, who meets Arvind Kejriwal in ED custody daily, quoted her husband.

The guarantees, broadly themed around AAP’s campaign mainstays, include uninterrupted, and free electricity for the poor, high quality government schools in each village and neighbourhood, neighbourhood clinics and multi-speciality hospitals, MSP to farmers based on Swaminathan commission report, and full statehood for Delhi. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress had desisted from promising full statehood to Delhi, drawing flak from the AAP.

ALSO READ-Indian economy in distress, BJP unaware: Chidambaram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *