Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday claimed that his party and the allies have a significant lead over the BJP-led NDA at the end of the first three phases of Lok Sabha polls, wherein voting has taken place in 303 constituencies.
The former Union minister’s remarks come a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in Mumbai that the Congress won’t get even 50 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, Chidambaram said, “I am prepared to stick my neck out and make a prediction on the results of the first three phases.”
He also claimed that the Congress is “level” with the BJP.
“That means the Congress has gained significantly and, correspondingly the BJP has suffered losses. As an alliance, the Congress and its allies have a significant lead over the BJP and its allies. Mark the word ‘significant’. The unfinished task is to retain the initiative, press forward and ensure the lead over BJP is extended,” he said.
When asked about Modi’s remarks about Congress not getting even 50 seats, Chidambaram said, “One can’t stop anybody from dreaming. Modi dreams not only when he is asleep, but also when he is awake.”
The Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra said, “The narrative of security and pseudo-nationalism is a false narrative. Who secured the nation in three wars that were fought against Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971. India is safe because it has a professional Army, Navy and Air Force, and not because one person boasts of a 56-inch chest.”
Chidambaram said people have voted against the “twin disasters of demonetisation and flawed GST”.
Responding to questions, he said demonetisation was a “big scandal”, which will be probed after the change in the government.
“The decision was taken to help convert black money into white. Unaccounted money has become accounted due to note-ban,” he said.
To a question about the remarks by BJP’s Bhopal Lok Sabha seat candidate Pragya Singh Thakur on late IPS officer Hemant Karkare, he said the comments were “condemnable”.
“Karkare was a celebrated police officer of Maharashtra who was martyred in the 26/11 attacks,” the former minister said.
He said the NYAY Scheme envisaged by the Congress will be implemented if the party is voted to power. “There is enough money in the country. The question is how to allocate it correctly,” he added.
Replying to a question on MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s campaign against the BJP government, the Congress leader said, “He is expressing his views against BJP and Shiv Sena and telling voters not to support them. Why should I not welcome it?”
“We should read the ‘Saamana’ (Shiv Sena mouthpiece) editorials on last one or two years,” he said referring to Shiv Sena-BJP alliance ahead of the elections.
Chidambaram said in 2014, the Congress-led UPA had campaigned on its ten years of performance, while Modi on his tall promises.
“People voted for those promises. Now he should have sought votes on his five years of performance. We have been questioning him on what happened to the promises of putting Rs 15 lakh into the bank accounts of people, giving two crore jobs a year and doubling of farmers income,” he said.
On a question whether the Congress-led opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, Chidambaram said the party has already made it clear that the PM will be chosen after the results and the meeting of all non-BJP parties.
When asked about BJP’s promise of abolishing Article 370, Chidambaram said, “The instrument of accession signed between Maharaja Hari Singh and (then) Home Minister Sardar Patel should be read carefully. Apart from Article 370, there are various special provisions for different states. Why single out only Article 370? There is a history of how India was united.”
Responding to a query on Congress manifesto regarding Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA), Chidambaram said the manifesto speaks about reviewing the Act to ensure there is no immunity in complaints of sexual offence, torture, enforced disappearance or encounter.
“If there are complaints, those will be investigated.
What is wrong in that. Human rights are as important as security,” he said.
Chidambaram claimed that if the Congress is voted to power, it will re-start the growth engine, waive agriculture loans, create jobs, transfer Rs 72,000 per year into accounts of 5 crore households that are below poverty line.
“The BJP-led NDA government has derailed the Indian economy. The unemployment rate has reached 8.4 per cent this month, the highest in over 50 years. In last five years, farmers sunk deeper in distress and debt. Every section of the society lives in fear, every institution has been denigrated, debilitated or captured,”He charged.