INDIA bloc kicks off Lok Sabha campaign at Mumbai rally with call to defeat BJP

Mumbai, March 18 (IANS) The INDIA bloc on Sunday launched its campaign for the Lok Sabha elections at a mega rally here, unanimously calling upon the people to defeat the BJP to save democracy and the Constitution.

At the rally at Shivaji Park, organised on the occasion of the conclusion of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, leaders of several INDIA bloc parties recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India movement in 1942, saying that the time has come to work together to relieve the country from the BJP.

NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar chief Sharad Pawar made a strong case for a change in the country, saying that together it can be done. “People who cheated the country with different promises… we have to vote them out, get rid of them. Those who hold power had made promises to farmers, Dalits, women, tribals and others but these were not fulfilled,” he said.

Referring to the BJP’s call for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s guarantee, he claimed it was not valid and would not work. He thanked the Election Commission for stopping advertisements shown on TV on PM Modi’s guarantee.

Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray chief Uddhav Thackeray said that the opposition parties, gathered under the aegis of the INDIA bloc, are against a dictatorship. He thanked Rahul Gandhi for selecting Mumbai and organising a rally to conclude his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra at the historic Shivaji Park for driving out the dictatorship that has prevailed in the country.

‘’Mahatma Gandhi gave the slogan of ‘Quit India’ in Mumbai in 1942. Thank you for choosing Shivaji Park to remove the dictatorship. BJP is a balloon. We did the job of filling this balloon (referring to Shiv Sena’s alliance with the BJP and the latter’s growth). This battle is to save the Constitution. (Shiv Sena founder) Balasaheb (Thackeray) used to say it should start from the courts,” he noted.

In his fiery speech, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav called to defeat the BJP, saying that there is no talk of rising unemployment, farmers’ distress, and inflation.

He said that the BJP-led government has not kept its promise of providing 2 crore jobs annually and depositing Rs 15 lakh in everyone’s account. Criticising Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, he said: “BJP not only took the MLAs in Maharashtra but my ‘uncle’ (Nitish Kumar) in Bihar too. We hear in the country now that PM Modi is the guarantee. BJP leaders say that PM Modi’s guarantee is the strongest. We want to tell them, ‘Give whatever guarantee you want to give, but show that my uncle will not turn back with this guarantee’. Uncle is gone, but the people of Bihar are with us. Let the survey show anything, but in Bihar, everyone will see a surprising result.”

The RJD leader said that those in the current Maharashtra government are not leaders but dealers.

“Those who were afraid left their respective parties and joined hands with BJP,” he said, adding that they (INDIA bloc leaders) are fighters and will not succumb to any pressure.

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi founder Prakash Ambedkar criticised the BJP-led government over the Electoral Bond scheme, questioning how can a company with limited profits invest huge amounts in these bonds.

He also targeted the PM over BJP’s’ “Modi ka Parivar” campaign.

Ambedkar said that the time has also come to speak against the use of EVMs in voting, adding that the opposition should ‘gherao’ the Election Commission.

Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, said the fight is not against PM Modi but “against the force that is being used against the opposition”.

He claimed that the BJP won’t win elections without EVMs. “We told the Election Commission to show this machine to the opposition party…. Show in depth. Show our experts how it works. But they didn’t show. Votes are not in machines. The vote is in the paper. You operate the machine but also count the paper. But they say they will not count the paper,” he added, referring to the VVPATs.

Without naming former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who switched from the Congress to the BJP, the Congress leader said that people are scared.

”A senior leader left the Congress. He cried and told my mother, ‘Soniaji, I am ashamed. I have no courage to fight against these people, against this power. I don’t want to go to jail’. Thousands of people have been scared. The people of Shiv Sena and the people of NCP went like this. The force has made them join the BJP,” he added.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, Congress President Mallikarjuna Kharge, Telangana Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy, and Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar were also present at the rally.

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