New Delhi: The Congress is “best equipped” to lead the Opposition’s charge against the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said on Sunday, asserting the Grand Old Party will have to handle its leadership role with “large-heartedness” and accommodate regional parties. Mr Yadav also hailed the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh, and emphasised that his “courtesy call” meetings with Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati following the tieup should not be seen as a “pressure tactic” aimed at the Congress.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader said since the Congress was India’s oldest and currently the second-biggest political party, with a pan-India presence, it is in a very strong position to win the maximum number of seats among the Opposition parties.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, among the prospective Opposition grand alliance parties, the Congress had won 44 seats, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress won 34, the Samajwadi Party won five, while the RJD had bagged four seats. “I don’t find anything wrong if the Congress plays a pivotal role in forming the alliance or taking the leadership role of the alliance into the elections. But having said that, they have to accept that each state has different ground realities,” Mr Yadav said when asked if for a strong Opposition coalition, the Congress has to be the pivot.
The Congress, being the party with national acceptance and the maximum footprint in the Opposition, is “undoubtedly best equipped” to lead the Opposition’s charge against the BJP or the National Democratic Alliance, the former Bihar deputy chief minister asserted.
“However, the Congress will have to handle their leadership role with large-heartedness and play a proactive role by accommodating the regional parties with their agenda... In states where the Congress doesn’t have a robust base, it must allow the regional outfits to occupy the frontal attack position against the BJP,” Mr Yadav said, emphasising that regional parties have a greater ability to transfer votes.
The concentration is on winnability, hence the coalition must be decided statewise and seatwise, said the 29-year-old son of former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Every party will have to compromise or lend space to other parties depending on the situation in a particular state for forming a winning alliance, Mr Yadav said, replying to a question if the Congress has to be more giving to regional parties to strengthen the coalition.
Asked if leaving out the Congress from the SP-BSP tieup would impact the Opposition’s national level coalition, he said the people of India feel they have been “duped badly” and have made up their mind to get rid of the “propagandists” for their own well-being.
Asked whether the SP and BSP will be a part of the “Mahagathbandhan” in Bihar, the RJD leader said all the Opposition parties were together against the BJP-led alliance. “You don’t always need seats to contest to prove that you are part of an alliance. Sometimes lending unconditional support works wonders for sending the message across to the electorate... It is true that the SP and BSP aren’t major political parties in Bihar, but we have high regard for them and their politics. We have seen the SP-BSP alliance has decided not to field their candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli,” Mr Yadav said.
Mr Tejashwi Yadav’s remarks come amid hectic efforts by the Opposition to forge a strong alliance to take on the BJP in the general election. Leaders from several parties, including Mr Yadav, came together on Saturday, vowing at a mega-rally in Kolkata to put up a united fight in the forthcoming polls and oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power.
Mr Yadav also hit out at those dubbing his meeting with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati in Lucknow as a pressure tactic aimed at the Congress, saying his family always had close ties with the two leaders and the meetings were courtesy calls. “Akhileshji is part of our extended family and ‘Behen’ Mayawatiji always had cordial relations with us. When she resigned from the Rajya Sabha, my father publicly said the RJD will always be ready to send her to the Rajya Sabha if she agrees,” Mr Tejashwi Yadav added.
“Even last year during the RS elections in Bihar, I called her to request her again to enter the Rajya Sabha with RJD backing. So my courtesy calls to them shouldn’t be construed as a pressure tactic,” he said.