File photo: Digvijaya Singh. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Pitching for a “spirit of accommodation” in Opposition ranks to take on BJP in 2019 polls, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Thursday said his party should take lead in forging a unity and also reconcile to the reality of being a “younger brother” to regional outfits in states like Bihar and West Bengal. Singh said the saffron party’s “religious fanaticism” could the common meeting ground for all opposition parties and Congress being the largest among them should work to bring together BJP’s rivals.
In an interaction with PTI journalists here, Singh said a “spirit of accommodation ” has to be there among opposition parties and the recent case of CPI(M), where those favouring an understanding with the Congress to challenge the BJP prevailed over the ones against it, indicated a similar mood. At its congress meeting in Hyderabad, the CPI(M) also re-elected Sitaram Yechury, who had campaigned for an understanding with the main opposition party.
Singh said the commonality among the opposition parties is their opposition to the ideology of BJP because of its “religious fanaticism”. He also made light of questions raised by some on the leadership of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and said his mother and the then party chief Sonia Gandhi’s political wisdom and even citizenship were questioned in 2004 before non-NDA parties came together under her stewardship.
Noting that Congress stalwarts like Indira Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru, or even Mahatma Gandhi, were not really known as a great orators, Singh said leadership has to give confidence and it is more important that articulation. The Congress party general secretary said Modi’s oratorical skills may be rated highly, but Rahul Gandhi has “evolved as a credible leader”.
He, however, agreed that the Congress should offer voters a blueprint on how it will deal with challenges like creating jobs, spurring economy and maintaining social harmony as the BJP might have “failed” but people want to know what the opposition has to offer. To a question if a united opposition should project a prime ministerial candidate against Narendra Modi in 2019 general elections, Singh opined against it saying it should be the right of elected MPs to chose their leader but stressed that it is his personal view.
“A common minimum programme should be worked out too. How to do that has to be dealt patiently and politically by my leadership so that we win back the confidence of regional parties, even if we are fighting against each other, so that we can take up the challenge against BJP. The spirit of accommodation has to there to fight a larger danger,” Singh said. To make his case for a unity among the opposition ranks, he highlighted the results of Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls in UP, where the BJP suffered a shock defeat to the SP-BSP alliance.
The verdict showed that social arithmetic still matters, he said. Asked if the Congress can play younger brother to regional parties in some states, including Bihar and West Bengal, where its influence is limited, Singh said that is a reality and it should do so. In the two UP bypolls, the Congress was not part of the opposition alliance and put up its candidates, who ended up losing their deposits.
The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister recently returned from a self-imposed sabbatical after concluding his six-month long ‘Narmada parikrama’ of over 3300 km on foot. Taking on the RSS, he said its main agenda is turning India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and it has “poisoned” the youth’s mind with its extremist ideology.