On Sunday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during his address at the conclusion of the party’s three-day Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, made remarks that subsequently sparked a war of words between the Congress and their major regional allies. He said that regional parties cannot defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “because they don’t have an ideology”.
Congress senior leader Shashi Tharoor addressed this issue in an interview, and said, “I think what he (Rahul Gandhi) meant – at least we all understood by what he meant – was that we have a national vision.” He continued, “We speak for and think of the country as a whole. Whereas regional parties by its very character and nature is usually confined to one particular region or interest group.”
Congress MP Tharoor, referring to the party’s allies, also said, “I think, for example, much of the ideology of Trinamool, the RJD, the Samajwadi Party or even for the most part the DMK, will be congruent to and compatible with what the Congress stands for.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Rajya Sabha MP Manjo Jha had retaliated to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks saying, “Regional parties are strong in a majority of Lok Sabha seats in the fight against the BJP, and the Congress should settle to be “co-travellers” and let them be in the “driving seat” in over 320 of the 543 parliamentary constituencies.” The RJD and Congress were allies in the 2020 Bihar polls. Jha also said that he finds Gandhi’s remarks “a little bizarre and out of sync”, as Congress was committed to forming alliances with “like-minded” parties, and would open avenues for forging alliances according to political circumstances. This comes amid the Congress party’s focus on building alliances for the upcoming 2024 general election.
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Congress’ ally in the state of Jharkhand – the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) – with whom they currently run a coalition government, also responded to this statement saying that it is Rahul Gandhi’s self-assessment and he is entitled to his opinion. However, JMM spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya also questioned, “Who gave him the authority to comment on ideology? How are we running the party without any ideology?” He added, “The fact remains that it is these regional parties on which the Congress is dependent for a fight or a win, be it the JMM in Jharkhand or the RJD in Bihar.”
Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy, while pointing out that Congress has developed a “phobia” of regional parties, said that they have no presence in states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Telangana. He added that Rahul Gandhi should remember that Congress has ruled at the Centre with the help of regional parties for almost ten years.