The opposition leaders attacked the government on various issues, including the Rafale jets deal, unemployment, national security failure and agrarian crisis
The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) along with their smaller allies – fewer in number than expected – held their first joint rally in the run-up to the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, in Nanded on Wednesday. The opposition leaders attacked the government on various issues, including the Rafale jets deal, unemployment, national security failure and agrarian crisis, and vowed to fight together to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) away from power.
The rally, which was held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Nanded, saw NCP chief Sharad Pawar leading the charge against the BJP along with Congress’ state unit chief Ashok Chavan; NCP leaders Chhagan Bhujbal and Dhananjay Munde; People’s Republican Party chief Jogendra Kawade; and Peasants and Workers Party leader Jayant Patil. All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge was also on the list of speakers, but did not attend the rally.
Pawar launched an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for attending political rallies a day after the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF Jawans were killed. “This has never happened in the history of the country,” said Pawar. “All the opposition party leaders were attending a meeting on security in New Delhi, but Modi and his party leaders gave it a miss to attend political rallies. This is insensitive and unpardonable.”
The former Union minister said the Rafale deal will ensure “the end of the BJP regime” at the Centre. “The price of Rafale deal increased… everybody knows who benefited. The ghost of Rafale deal will oust the Modi government,” he said.
Pawar also slammed the Maharashtra government over its failure to give reservation to the Dhangar (shepherd) community, and ensuring that the Marathas got it.
Chavan highlighted how it was crucial for all opposition parties to come together, as divisions between them had facilitated the BJP’s win in 2014, although they had just 30% votes. The former Maharashtra chief minister said the loan waiver announced by the state was owing to the protests by Opposition, but the government could not implement it properly.
Bhujbal praised Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party’s in-charge for east Uttar Pradesh, for the maturity they have shown after the Pulwama attack by cancelling press conferences and announcing to stand united. He accused the government of “standing by industrialists and with policies against the poor”.
The Congress-NCP, along with smaller allies, plan to hold another joint rally at Beed on Saturday.
Although the alliance was expecting at least eight to nine like-minded parties to join the Grand Alliance, they could not succeed to bring Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh; Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Paksha; Communist Party of India (M); and Samajwadi Party (SP) on board. The smaller allies have been demanding more seats than what has been offered by Congress, NCP. Leaders from both parties, however, have expressed confidence of convincing the smaller allies to join the alliance soon.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi, too, is scheduled to address his first campaign rally in Maharashtra on March 1. A rally in Dhule in the afternoon will be followed by one in Mumbai.