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INDIA alliance will work for people, not ‘leader’s image’: Shashi Tharoor

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Aizawl: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday asserted that the opposition INDIA alliance is the answer if the citizens of the country want the next government at the Centre to work for the people rather than the “image of a leader”.

The Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala claimed that the Congress is ahead of the BJP in all the five assembly poll-bound states and the outcome will boost the morale of the opposition alliance before next year’s Lok Sabha polls.

In an interview with PTI, Tharoor said, “I think the time has come for Indian voters to ask what is in their self interest, not what’s in Modi’s image or PR work of the BJP. Do you want a government that will give your welfare a priority? Do you want a government that will put people first and not the image of the leader first?”

He asserted that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) is the answer if the citizens want a government that will think about the people instead of a single leader.

“Frankly, it seems the people of India are getting ready to send a strong message to the BJP. If you look at the elections, at the moment, the BJP is way behind the Congress in four of the five states and slightly behind in the fifth one, Rajasthan.

“So, if you are looking at the outcome, it looks like the opposition is going to get a very strong wind in its sails when it goes for Lok Sabha elections next year. And that can’t be good news for the BJP,” he added.

Referring to the pre-poll surveys in Rajasthan, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, the senior Congress leader said that all of them have put the opposition party ahead of the BJP in all states except Rajasthan.

“If you also pick up what party workers are saying on the ground, there is a lot of confidence in the Congress party that we are going to do very well in these elections,” he added.

Polling in these five states will take place between November 7 and 30 in multiple phases, while the votes will be counted on the same day on December 3.

Asked if he would like to term the polls in these five states as “semi-finals” before the Lok Sabha elections, Tharoor said the terminology is a “bit awkward” because the voters have learnt to vote differently in assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

“Also, in the few months between the results of the state elections and the declaration of the code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections, anything can happen. Last time around in 2018, (Narendra) Modi’s party lost all five states and by May of 2019, they had won a majority of seats in all these states.

“So, what happened? Well, partially because Pulwama happened. With Pulwama and Balakot, the government was able to transform what had been a referendum on their economic incompetence into a national security vote. People said for national security reasons, they vote for Modi,” he added.

On the possibility of using any such issue again during next year’s elections, the Kerala MP said: “I don’t think lighting can strike at the same way at the same place twice.”

He said that the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) can capitalise on two events happening in January — completion of Ram Mandir and visit of (US President) Joe Biden as the chief guest in the Republic Day celebrations.

Questioning the BJP promises made before the Narendra Modi government came to power, Tharoor asked the people of the country if all those assurances have been fulfilled, and take a decision accordingly.

Talking about the controversy surrounding the name of the country, the MP said: “I think it is a completely unnecessary distraction from the real issues facing that country. India is something that everyone identifies as part of our country’s idea. Why do we want to choose from one to the other? Let us keep both (India and Bharat).”

He said people very easily switch between India and Bharat depending upon the language they speak or write. If it is in English and at an international forum, then India and it’s Bharat if it is in someone’s mother tongue.

“The word India originates from the same etymological roots as the word Hindu. Both came because the Persians saw the people beyond the river Indus as one people. They couldn’t say the name Sindhu because they couldn’t pronounce ‘S’ very clearly, so they made it Hindu.

“That’s how Hindu and India both originated from the Persian words for the people beyond the river Sindhu. So, if you don’t want to say ‘garv se kaho ki hum Indian hain’ (say proudly that we are Indians), you can’t say ‘garv se kaho ki hum Hindu hain’ (say proudly that we are Hindus). Both are from the same origin,” the veteran author-turned-politician explained.

On the alleged misuse of the central investigating agencies, Tharoor alleged that this is not new as the BJP has been doing it throughout their tenure since 2014.

“It just accelerates before there is a vote. They somehow want to discourage the people who have the courage to challenge them. I think we are going to find more and more cases against the opposition and the critics of the government.

“… and frankly I think the public now has learnt to see through the messaging behind this. It cannot be that the only people worth investigating in this country are opposition leaders,” he added.

Tharoor was in Aizawl to campaign for Congress candidates for the elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly which will take place in a single phase on November 7. The votes polled will be counted on December 3.

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