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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Rahul plays up threat to democracy: INDIA bloc formed to protect Constitution, says Congress leader

'We formed INDIA to save the Constitution, which the BJP plans to change'

Piyush Srivastava, Dev Raj Lucknow, Bhagalpur Published 21.04.24, 05:01 AM
Rahul Gandhi with Akhilesh Yadav (right) at a rally in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday in support of INDIA candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

Rahul Gandhi with Akhilesh Yadav (right) at a rally in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday in support of INDIA candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. PTI

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the INDIA bloc had been formed to protect the Constitution, which he accused the BJP of planning to change, hitting the party where it suddenly appears vulnerable.

“We formed INDIA to save the Constitution, which the BJP plans to change. We have to protect democracy,” Rahul said at a joint rally with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh.

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“BJP leaders have already confessed that they would change the Constitution if they are voted to power for a third time.”

Lallu Singh, BJP Lok Sabha member from Faizabad-Ayodhya, was quoted as saying last week that the BJP needs a huge majority so that it can change the Constitution. Lallu claims the video was maliciously edited.

However, his purported comments have caused widespread fear among Dalit and tribal communities about a third NDA government amending the Constitution to abolish reservations, prompting a nervous BJP to field its top two leaders to try and put out the fire.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has over the past few days insisted at his rallies that he does not intend to change the Constitution. Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday categorically said the BJP would not tinker with the country’s reservation policy.

Since the controversy broke, BJP leaders have largely piped down on their “400-plus seats” cry — the apparent root of the Constitution-change fears — betraying the seriousness with which the party is tackling the issue.

Rahul also reiterated his familiar charge that the BJP is a party of the rich.

“The BJP government is for the rich but we will form a government of the poor,” he told the rally, held at the stadium of the Government Inter College in Amroha.

“We plan to start a Mahalaxmi Yojana under which a woman from every below-poverty-line family will get Rs 1 lakh every year. We will also scrap the Agniveer scheme (of temporary military recruitment) and start recruiting full-time soldiers.”

Akhilesh said the BJP had “evaporated from western Uttar Pradesh” in the first phase of the elections, held on Friday.

“The wave of change has started from western UP. It will spread across the country and a BJP-free government will be formed,” he said.

Earlier, addressing a rally at Hajipur village in Meerut constituency, Akhilesh had said: “The BJP has been rejected in the first phase. They were saying our show was a flop, but it’s their film that failed in the first phase. People are not interested in listening to their lies.”

Modi has, without naming Rahul or Akhilesh, been ridiculing the Congress-Samajwadi alliance at his rallies by saying “the film of the two shehzadas (princes) has been rejected”.

At Hajipur, Akhilesh accused the BJP of undermining religious harmony through hate speeches and lies.

Modi had alleged at a rally in Gajraula on Friday that the Congress candidate for Amroha (Danish Ali) had reservations about chanting “Bharat Mata ki jai”. Ali has accused Modi of inventing “new lies” during every election to polarise voters.

“Such gimmicks don’t work when people are unhappy with the government and know that the Constitution is in danger under its rule,” Ali, who had won from Amroha in 2019 as a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate but recently joined the Congress, told reporters.

The BSP has fielded Mujahid Hussain from Amroha, who is expected to split the anti-BJP Muslim vote. Small numbers of Muslim voters might also back Suhel Haider of the Akhil Bharatiya Parivar Party or the Independents Kashif Husain and Naeemuddin, thus favouring BJP candidate Kanwar Singh Tanwar.

Ali had defeated Tanwar in 2019 by over 60,000 votes. Tawar had won from Amroha in 2014.

The results of the 2014 and 2019 elections suggest that Amroha’s Muslim electorate includes about 8,000 swing voters, but the rest tend to vote en bloc for the candidate they consider best placed to defeat the BJP.

INDIA has fielded Samajwadi politician Sunita Verma against Arun Govil of the BJP in Meerut. The BSP’s Devbrat Kumar Tyagi is in the fray too.

Rajendra Agrawal of the BJP had won from Meerut in 2019 but the party has dropped him in favour of Govil, who had played Ram in the 1980s mega-hit TV serial Ramayan. BJP leaders have in their campaign speeches been highlighting Govil’s Ram connection.

Guarantee war

Earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Bhagalpur constituency of Bihar where he pitted the Congress’s guarantees against Modi’s and flagged income inequality.

He said the combined wealth of 22 of the richest capitalists in the country equalled that of 70 crore people, many of whom earned less than Rs 100 a day.

“Modi has been diverting people’s attention for the past 10 years and handing over the country’s money to billionaire capitalists. He has waived Rs 16 lakh crore worth of loans for them,” he said.

“This money is 25 times the farmer loans the Congress had waived; it equals 25 years of expenditure under the MGNREGA. The Congress has decided that if INDIA is voted to power, it will give an equivalent amount to the poor.”

Rahul was campaigning for the Congress candidate for Bhagalpur, Ajeet Sharma. Other Congress candidates such as Tariq Anwar (Katihar) and Mohammad Jawed (Kishanganj), as well as Rashtriya Janata Dal nominees Bima Bharti (Purnea) and Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav (Banka), were present.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and Vikassheel Insaan Party chief Mukesh Sahni were at the rally, too, but did not get a chance to speak because Rahul had to rush to Amroha.

Rahul highlighted the Congress’s guarantees: “We will waive farmers’ loans and give them legally guaranteed minimum support prices for their produce.”

He accused Modi of turning the country into a swamp of unemployment.

  • Amroha and Meerut vote on April 26, as do Bhagalpur, Katihar, Kishanganj, Purnea and Banka
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