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Modi sending RSS, BJP people to defeat me: Mallikarjun Kharge

Exclusive interview of Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Gulbarga's most popular politician.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Apr 21, 2019, 08.45 AM IST
Modi sending RSS, BJP people to defeat me: Mallikarjun Kharge
Mallikarjun Kharge (File Pic)
Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha,is said to be facing one of his toughest electoral battles in home turf Gulbarga after a number of his Congress colleagues switched over to the BJP. The 76-year-old Congress veteran, who has never lost an election (he has won nine Assembly and two Parliamentary elections), plays down the challenge from party rebels and tells Indulekha Aravind that the real fight is about PM Narendra Modi’s efforts to ensure his defeat. Edited excerpts:

This election is being seen as your toughest yet. Will you agree?
No, [it is] not tough. The people are with me. In the city [Gulbarga], there are some RSS people and BJP leaders creating the hype that the BJP is going to win and that it is a tough election. It is not like that. I know the people here for 50 years. I have contested 11 elections over 48 years. Whatever work I have done is visible to the people -- whether it is [setting up] central university, ESI hospital, dental and medical colleges or skill development centres.

And as a representative, I have done my duty in Parliament. I haven’t missed a single day. As Leader of the Opposition, I’ve done my duty with 44 people [MPs]. I’ve been working 24x7, whether it is in Parliament or outside. So what is the allegation against me? Only the RSS is saying: ‘Oh, you have been in politics for long’. Or, if they don’t get anything, they say: ‘he brought in his son Priyank’. Arrey! He came up on his own – he was a student leader, then youth Congress vice-president. All the leaders, including the [Congress] High Command, forced him to contest the by-election when I left my constituency. They asked why I was afraid of my son standing against the BJP. You forced him to come into politics and now there is propaganda that I brought my son in. This is unfair to him and uncharitable towards me.

Several Congress leaders, including your opponent in this election, have switched to the BJP saying you are promoting your son, Priyank Kharge (a minister in the Karnataka government).

They came into politics because of me. I gave ticket to some of them in my place but they have forgotten. This fellow, [Umesh] Jadhav [the BJP candidate from Gulbarga], was working under me in the ESI [Employees’ State Insurance] labour department. He is hardly a one-term fellow and you people are projecting him as a very senior leader. The real fight is about [PM Narendra] Modi sending RSS and BJP people here to defeat me. These are small instruments they are using [to defeat me].

Do you feel sense of betrayal?
Naturally, it is betrayal. He [Jadhav] won a term, enjoyed it and has now left [the Congress party]. And what is his allegation? That I am supporting my son?

We come into politics believing in certain principles and an ideology, not whether someone’s son or father is there...I want to ask, particularly the reserved candidates: who are they allying with? Ministers from their own party in Karnataka openly say: ‘we got elected to change the Constitution’ and you [Jadhav] want to support this? Is this not a betrayal of the people, of the weaker sections?

Will the rebels impact your poll prospects?
If they had some impact, why did they lose elections? But I can say that the BJP is afraid of me. Modi is afraid of my performance. He is not taking it in the democratic spirit. He is acting with vengeance and jealousy. But as long as I have people’s blessings, nobody can defeat me.

How will the Congress-JDS alliance perform in Karnataka?

We are trying and going together. There are a few hiccups. But we will get majority of the seats, nearly 20-22.

What about Congress’ performance at the national level?
We are going to stop him (Modi) from coming to power. Modi is not an individual. He has been created by the RSS. We Indians will not accept RSS’ philosophy – we want inclusive growth, development and secular principles. Our Constitution is based on liberty, equality and fraternity. They [the RSS] do not want this – they believe in Manusmriti, not the Constitution. This is dangerous for the country.

Will Modi and BJP benefit from Balakot air strike?
That is his biggest mistake. One should not use the Army in politics. Did Lal Bahadur Shastri ever speak of the Army like this? Indira Gandhi supported Bangladesh liberation [movement] but did she speak about it in the 1977 elections? This is all gimmick. All I will say is a statesman will not speak like this.

There was a newspaper report which quoted a Congress leader as suggesting that you could be PM…

My leader is Rahul Gandhi. I want to make him the prime minister. Some people, to encourage me, speak like this during elections but I am not wooed by that.

I was not ready even to be the Leader of Opposition but madam [Sonia] Gandhi asked me to. Then some people said, “Arrey, Sonia ji has brought some Madrasi”. This is how they used to speak in Central Hall. But after I performed in Parliament for the first time, they wanted to know how I managed to do it, and about my experience. But I want to see Rahul Gandhi as the prime minister who is acceptable to all, who will protect the Constitution and parliamentary democracy. Modi ji has always hated parliamentary democracy. He gives slogans like ‘Phir ek baar Modi sarkar’. He should at least say, ‘Phir ek baar BJP’. But Rahul ji has never said this. We will prevent the BJP and the RSS from coming to power.

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