New Delhi: Ahead of the crucial Bengaluru meeting, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday exuded confidence that the Opposition, by staying united, can certainly challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and asserted that the leader of the anti-BJP bloc will emerge in “due course”.
In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram said the Congress has a “unique position” in the ranks of the opposition parties but there was “no need to talk about it now”.
The former Union minister also said that the manner in which the AAP formulated and posed the Delhi ordinance issue at the Patna meeting of the opposition parties was “unfortunate”.
Each issue will be decided on its own merits and at the appropriate time and place, he said.
Chidambaram stressed that the Opposition parties have several objectives in common as they are opposed to the social and economic policies of the BJP government, are concerned about slow economic growth, high inflation and rising unemployment, as well as about the “curtailment of civil liberties, the gagging of the media, the emasculation of institutions, and the misuse of investigating agencies”.
“They are concerned about the security situation on the borders. These common concerns have brought them together to oppose the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There is enough justification for the Opposition parties to meet as often as possible in the run up to the elections,” he said.
The forthcoming meeting at Bengaluru will certainly be purposeful, Chidambaram said and added that “we must wait and see what the next steps will be”.
Asked about the Opposition having sidestepped the leadership question for now and whether going to polls without a PM face face would work when Modi has been at the helm for 10 years, Chidambaram said, “That Mr Narendra Modi has been at the helm of the BJP and the central government for 10 years is not a strength but a weakness. Mr Modi’s hands are bare and he has not delivered on his promises.” There is nothing more that he can deliver in the last year, “except perhaps more slogans”, he added.
“The Opposition, by being united in their opposition to the BJP, can certainly challenge Mr Modi,” the senior Congress leader said.
Chidambaram said the leader of the “united Opposition” will emerge in “due course”.
On the comparison of the Opposition uniting to take on then PM Indira Gandhi in 1977 to the present scenario of opposition parties coming together, Chidambaram said the situation in 1977 was different from the situation in 2023 as in that election, the sole issue was Emergency but today, and in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, there are plenty of issues that are bothering the people.
“I have referred to the common concerns of the Opposition parties. They are sufficient to erect a platform that can be shared by Opposition parties,” he said.
On Prime Minister Modi’s swipe at the Opposition that the corrupt were joining hands, Chidambaram said that in Modi’s view, every Opposition party and every Opposition leader is corrupt.
“It is a hollow argument. His view has been rejected by the people time and again. The latest instance was in Karnataka. Mr Modi’s allegations are becoming tiresome. If he looks at his own ranks, he will find many leaders/ministers whom he had once accused of corruption,” Chidambaram said.
The phrase ‘BJP is a giant washing machine’ is familiar throughout India and evokes a lot of laughter and derision, he said.
On how the Opposition would counter polarising issues, Chidambaram said each issue raised by the BJP will be countered with facts, figures and the actual situation on the ground.
The Indian people are aware of the realities they face every day and they know which issue is a polarising issue and which issue affects their lives, he said.
On how the Opposition bloc would tackle the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Chidambaram said there is nothing on the table today called the ‘Uniform Civil Code’.
“The last statement on the subject was the view of the 21st Law Commission. Hence, the Congress has responded by saying that there is nothing to comment upon,” he said.
The opposition grouping to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls is set to expand with more parties joining in at the second unity meeting being convened by the Congress in Bengaluru.
Leaders of 24 non-BJP parties have been invited for the meet on June 17 and 18, the first edition of which saw the participation of 15 parties.
The first meeting of opposition parties was held in Bihar’s Patna on June 23.
At that meeting, Opposition parties had resolved to take on the BJP unitedly in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, even as fissures had emerged with the AAP asserting that it would be difficult for it to be part of any such gathering in the future till the Congress publicly supports it on the ordinance issue.
At a joint press conference after the Patna meeting, opposition parties had said they would fight the polls on a common agenda and state-wise strategy, setting aside their differences with a flexible approach.