Kharge refuses to identify LDF as Congress’s main rival in Kerala, focusses attack on PM Modi

Mallikarjun Kharge reaffirms INDIA bloc’s political relevance as a national-level anti-BJP platform

April 24, 2024 11:57 am | Updated 05:15 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan and party candidates for the  Lok Sabha elections Shashi Tharoor and Adoor Prakash during a function at a party office in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan and party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections Shashi Tharoor and Adoor Prakash during a function at a party office in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: -

All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Mallikarjun Kharge seemed hesitant to identify the Left Democratic Front (LDF), an INDIA bloc partner at the national level, as Congress’s main rival in Kerala. 

Instead, at a press conference at the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) headquarters, Indira Bhavan, in Thiruvananthapuram on April 24, Mr. Kharge focussed his party’s ire on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the latter’s Sangh Parivar brand of “muscular Hindu majoritarian nationalism and anti-Muslim politics.”

Mr. Kharge’s visit to Kerala came at a time when the relationship between the INDIA bloc allies was arguably at its lowest point.

The CPI(M) had slammed Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi as “politically naive and juvenile” for “echoing the BJP’s demand for the arrest and incarceration” of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by Central agencies. It had defended LDF independent legislator P.V. Anvar’s “invective” against Mr. Gandhi.

The LDF had accused the Congress of “betraying the anti-Sangh Parivar cause” at the national level by fielding Mr. Gandhi in Kerala, where the BJP arguably had scarce traction, instead of taking the fight to the Hindutva heartlands in Hindi-speaking north India.

The LDF had also sought to impair the Congress’s traditional standing among Muslims in Kerala by accusing the party’s manifesto committee of “blotting out” the INDIA bloc’s promise to repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and towing a soft-Hindutva line on Ayodhya Ram Temple. 

Mr. Kharge sidestepped questions on the allegedly “irreconcilable differences between the two partners in the fraying INDIA bloc and their fratricidal sparring in Kerala.”

‘Modi a threat to democracy’

Instead, Mr. Kharge portrayed Mr. Modi as “an existential threat to India’s plurality, secular Constitution, communal harmony and democracy.”

He reaffirmed the INDIA bloc’s political relevance as a national-level anti-BJP platform, wherein regional secular forces adopted varied strategies to disadvantage the BJP. 

For one, in some non-BJP-ruled States, INDIA bloc allies fought each other to deny the Sangh Parivar any anti-incumbency advantage. In others, they collaborated, he said.

Mr. Kharge accused Mr. Modi of dangerously breaking tradition with past Prime Ministers by terming Indian Muslims “infiltrators out to steal the nation’s wealth, including the gold ornaments of mothers and sisters”. 

Mr. Kharge said Mr. Modi resorted to incendiary rhetoric and invoked religion to divert public attention away from institutionalised corruption, unemployment, seller inflation, cost of living crisis, abject poverty, the yawning rich-poor divide and corporate appeasement. 

He said Mr. Modi had systematically subverted Constitutional bodies, including the Election Commission of India, by posting acolytes he could easily bend to his will.

“Mr. Modi has perverted law enforcement agencies and brazenly used them as tools to silence rivals and arm-twisted many into becoming his subalterns in the BJP. Two Chief Ministers are in jail because they refused to bend their knee to Mr. Modi”, Mr. Kharge said. 

Mr. Kharge said attacks against minorities, including in Manipur and New Delhi, had become more brazen under Mr. Modi. “The Prime Minister is acting like a spiteful divider instead of being a healer and uniter like many of his predecessors, including (Jawaharlal) Nehru”, he said. 

Mr. Kharge mocked Mr. Modi “for possessing a giant laundromat to clean corrupt persons who join the BJP ranks. “Suddenly, cases against defectors and turncoats are dropped”, he said. 

He said 91-year-old Deve Gowda, who “swore by secularism and claimed he wanted rebirth as a Muslim”, had joined the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva bandwagon for political expediency and survival. 

Mr. Kharge said repealing the CAA was a manifesto commitment that the Congress would zealously implement.

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