Our priority is to form a non-BJP government: K.C. Venugopal

The Hindu

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 The BJP tally will come down by 80-100 seats and Congress will gain at its expense, says party general secretary

Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, a key strategist, shares the party’s assessment of the emerging political situation after six phases of polling.
What is your assessment of the situation after six phases of polling?

According to all our inputs, the Congress has done very well. We are going to have a dramatic increase in our tally. That also means that the BJP will be losing dramatically.
What is the basis of your confidence about places where the Congress and the BJP are in direct fight?

For one, the BJP had peaked in all these States — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, we had zero; in Maharashtra, the NCP and the Congress together got six of 48 seats. In Jharkhand we had no seat, in Haryana we had one. We are doing extremely well in all these States. The BJP is facing a tough battle and even people like Nitin Gadkari are not having it easy and more than half the seats in Maharashtra will come to us. In Gujarat, the BJP has tried everything to decimate us, but we are getting anywhere between six and 10 seats. There are conflicting reports from Rajasthan, but we are winning around 10 seats there. In Madhya Pradesh, they tried everything, including fielding a hardcore Hindutva candidate in Bhopal but we will get more than half the seats. In Jharkhand and Bihar also, the situation is similar. The BJP hopes to win seats in West Bengal, but they are not going to win more than one or two. Overall, the BJP tally is coming down by 80-100 seats.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to create a nation-wide Hindutva campaign has failed, according to you?

The PM has tried everything possible to create polarisation, but people have not let that happen. Such a low-level campaign has never happened in the history of Indian democracy. No leader in India, let alone a PM, has used such language. He has not said anything about jobs, NPAs, farm distress, which are the real issues before the people. His strategy has been to avoid all these issues. Hiding the real agenda became their agenda. People did not let that happen. The Hindu-Muslim polarisation that he tried has not worked. The remarks by Modi and [BJP president]Amit Shah about Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad were so bad in taste. Their false claims have been exposed, as it happened in his latest interview on how he was micromanaging the operational details of the Balakot operation. He has lost his mind. What is the context of accusing Rajiv Gandhi? All this is to tickle communal sentiments, and to inflame hatred, sidestepping the real issues.
But there is also criticism that the Congress has not been able to propagate an alternative vision, and your manifesto promise of NYAY, etc. have not got any real traction.

We were very clear from the beginning that we would not fall into the trap of responding to Modi’s divisive rhetoric. That is a blunder that we could commit and hence were determined to avoid any discussion on polarising issues as he wanted. We kept the debate focussed on the real issues. NYAY is not a political agenda, but a sincere attempt to make an intervention in the lives of poor people.The Congress president was personally involved for months in its formulation. I won’t say the message has reached 100% of the population, but it certainly has reached around 70% of the electorate. The Congress president’s speeches and campaigning by candidates have taken the message to the grassroots. You compare the manifestoes of the BJP and the Congress and you will easily know who has addressed the real issues of the people and who has put up a vision for the country. Mr. Gandhi has addressed 160 rallies already. Priyanka Gandhi also addressed dozens of rallies. The turnout and the public response in more than 90% of these rallies have been overwhelmingly positive. People were receptive to our message.
In the event of a hung verdict, what will be the Congress move?

We are waiting for the results on May 23. Unless you have the numbers, it is premature to talk about post-poll arrangements. Our internal assessment is convincing for us — that the Modi government will be ousted. We are all hopeful that the Congress will be an alternative option. But our priority is to form a non-BJP government. We will make further moves considering the number of seats that we win, and other parties win. You were personally involved in the Karnataka model, where the Congress supported a party that has far fewer seats. Would you have a Karnataka model in Delhi too?

NEW DELHI, 18/06/2018: Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy meeting AICC President Rahul Gandhi at his residence today in New Delhi. Also present were Danish Ali, JDS , General Secretary and K.C. Venugopal, AICC General General Secretary.
NEW DELHI, 18/06/2018: Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy meeting AICC President Rahul Gandhi at his residence today in New Delhi. Also present were Danish Ali, JDS , General Secretary and K.C. Venugopal, AICC General General Secretary. 

We can’t say that. We are very confident about an impressive performance of the Congress. Any comment beyond that at this moment will be premature and I won’t make any. Let the results be out.
Can we say that facilitating the formation of an alternative to the BJP government will be your priority?

Yes, certainly. Ousting the Modi government is our political objective and we are confident of achieving it.
The Congress will be accommodating and generous to achieve that?

Yes indeed. All that will be discussed based on the results, how many seats we have, and how many seats our partners have. There is no point speculating about it now. But I am hopeful that the results will make the Congress the rallying point for many parties.
All existing allies will remain firmly with the Congress?

What doubt you have? Not only that, others who may not be with us today also will join us. That is why I am saying we must keep all this aside, till the results are out.
Are you in touch with regional parties?

All parties are in touch on a host of common issues. For instance, on the VVPAT issue, 21 parties got together. There is a coordination that exists among all these parties. The Congress and these parties have a warm relationship, despite the fact that we are in contest with some of them at the State level.
Will the Congress insist on the post of PM?

There is no point discussing that question right now. As far as we are concerned, we have fought the elections very well.

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