He was the Congress’ unanimous choice to fight the election to the deputy chairperson’s post after all other Opposition parties backed out. In an interview to Sreeparna Chakrabarty, Rajya Sabha member B.K. Hariprasad says that despite knowing it was a tough battle, his party decided to fight the polls as a matter of principle to save democracy and the new political equation shows that it is the Congress’ responsibility to stitch together an Opposition alliance to taken on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in 2019.
Your name was fielded knowing fully well it was a losing battle. But still your party decided to fight it out. What does this signify?
It was not a losing battle, but a tough battle. We believe in democracy. Just because somebody is powerful, we can’t give up. If at all this government had some sense of consensus...
For the last four years we have been seeing there has been no consensus. It is this almost authoritative attitude of the government that makes up our resolve to strengthen democracy.
How was your name decided upon?
As the major Opposition block in the Rajya Sabha, it was our responsibility to give the smaller parties the option of whether they wanted to fight or not. It was offered to the Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Trinamul Congress. And when they said they would not fight, it was a collective decision of the Opposition to field a candidate from the Congress Party. Then the Congress took a decision to field me.
Who were the other candidates that were considered?
DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, NCP’s Vandana Chavan and Trinamul Congress’ Sukhendu Sekhar Roy were the other candidates who were considered.
Was Mr Roy’s name discussed in the Opposition meeting?
No, there was a formal discussion earlier between leaders. They (the Trinamul Congress) gave the choice to the NCP.
Who spoke to BJD chief Naveen Patnaik apart from Sharad Pawar? Did the Congress leaders speak with him?
Yes, of course. P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Kamal Nath all approached Mr Patnaik. They were told that the BJD is not in a position to support the united Opposition candidate.
They called him after your name was announced?
Of course. In Odisha, he (Mr Patnaik) did not want to leave a space for us. By supporting the JD(U) candidate, he has given an indication.
What about other parties?
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti was part of the NDA. They had a pre-poll alliance with the NDA. There was no chance of them supporting the Congress. He can’t join the Congress.
As far as the Aam Aadmi Party is concerned, it all depends on Delhi politics. Their presence is in Delhi. It is all encircled in Delhi politics. We can’t help it.
Is the TDP’s joining the Opposition block going to boost its chances?
Nobody is taking cognisance of this. The TDP was a major partner of the NDA. They broke away and now they have joined the Opposition.
So the Congress emerges as the single largest Opposition block…
Naturally. The Congress has got presence in all states and villages. Maybe not in terms of votes, but definitely in terms of organisation. We will never compromise with the BJP. We have to take a stand and we took a stand to take them head on in the Rajya Sabha. As you said, we knew pretty well that we do not have the numbers, but that doesn’t mean we give them a free run.
The man who spoke yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his speech by quoting August 9. It was on this day that the foundation for a free India, for democracy and for the Constitution was laid. On that foundation, democracy has come a long way for 70 long years. The beauty of that democracy is that the people who opposed August 9 “Kranti Divas” can also occupy the highest position. And they have forgotten this.
So does this new equation mean that any kind of Opposition block has to be around the Congress?
Of course, as a major political party. It is the responsibility of the Congress to stitch together a proper alliance to fight the BJP, especially PM Modi.