Rahul Gandhi plays down INDIA divisions, says Mamata Banerjee is very much part of the bloc

No desertions from INDIA except JD(U)‘s Nitish Kumar, says Congress leader, dismissing seat-sharing differences as ‘normal posturing’; says 50% quota cap is artificial and unfair and should be removed

February 06, 2024 10:55 pm | Updated February 07, 2024 09:10 am IST - NEW DELHI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and  Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee in Bengaluru. File photo

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and  Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee in Bengaluru. File photo | Photo Credit: ANI

There have been no desertions from the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) other than by the Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday, insisting that Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is “very much” still a part of the Opposition bloc.

Addressing a press conference at Gumla in Jharkhand, just before his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra entered Odisha, Mr. Gandhi tried to play down the trouble within the INDIA bloc.

“If you look at Mamata ji’s statement, Mamata Ji is very much part of the INDIA alliance and most of the other members who were part of the INDIA alliance are still members in the INDIA alliance,” he said.

‘Normal posturing’

“Of course, Mr. Nitish Kumar has left the INDIA alliance and he has gone to the BJP. You can guess as to what the reasons are for him leaving. It’s fine, we will fight in Bihar as the INDIA alliance. So, I don’t agree that lots of our partners are not part of the alliance,” Mr. Gandhi added.

The Congress leader, who is leading the Manipur-to-Mumbai yatra across 15 States, also played down the differences over seat-sharing within the alliance, insisting that negotiations are still ongoing. “So, there is posturing and that is normal,” he noted.

‘BJP obsessed by dog’

Mr. Gandhi also responded to the attacks on him by BJP leaders, including Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, over a viral video in which the Congress leader can be seen offering a biscuit to a dog and then passing it on to a man.

“The dog was nervous and shivering... When I gave it a biscuit, the dog got scared. Then I gave the biscuit to the owner, saying it will eat from your hand. Then the owner gave it and the dog ate the biscuit. So, what is the issue?” Mr. Gandhi said, adding,”I don’t understand what is the BJP’s obsession with the dog?”

‘Remove 50% quota cap’

The Congress leader also talked about creating a new financial model for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and industries with a special focus on the backward classes, Dalits, Adivasis, and the poor.

Responding to a question on removing his proposal to remove the 50% cap on reservations, the former Congress president said that it was an artificial and unfair limit which should be removed, while protecting the reservation rights of the Dalits and Adivasis. This, he claimed, would also benefit the economically weaker sections from the general category. Mr. Gandhi also reiterated his commitment to conduct a caste census across the country.

Referring to the political situation in Jharkhand, the Congress leader said that central law enforcement agencies were only being used to target Opposition leaders.

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