Press Trust of India

Rahul was ‘man of match’ of LS polls: Shashi Tharoor

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Bats for Rahul as LoP

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday hailed Rahul Gandhi as “the man of the match” of the Lok Sabha polls and said it would only be fitting that he takes on the mantle of the Leader of Opposition in the house.

In an interview with PTI after his fourth-straight Lok Sabha polls victory, Tharoor said the message of the mandate was that the electorate have given a “comeuppance” to the BJP’s “overweening arrogance” and its “my way or the high way attitude”.

“It will be a challenge for Mr (Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah who have not been used to consulting very much in running their government and I think this is going to test their ability to change their way of functioning and be more accommodative and more conciliatory within the government and also I hope with the opposition,” Tharoor said on the incoming coalition government of the NDA.

The former Union minister said this time the Modi-led NDA government could prove to be a ‘majboor sarkaar’ (helpless government) on some issues because the parties that are part of the NDA will have to agree on everything.

“Already we have questions being raised by one party on the Agniveer scheme, saying that it needs to be reviewed and they have been supported by a second party namely the JD(U) and Chirag Paswan. Both in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, there are leaders who have demanded special category status for their states which the BJP government had hitherto refused to grant, that will have to be re-examined,” he said.

Tharoor said suddenly now there will have to be a more consensual model governance coming up.

He accused the Modi government of treating Parliament like a notice board in the last 10 years and expecting it to be a rubber stamp for all their decisions which, he said, was not viable now with a robust opposition of more than 230 MPs.

Batting for Rahul Gandhi to take on the mantle of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Tharoor said the former Congress president was unquestionably the star of this Lok Sabha performance.

“He and Congress president (Mallikarjun) Kharge campaigned extensively throughout the country, but Mr Kharge is in the Rajya Sabha where he leads the Opposition and it would only be fitting that Rahul Gandhi does the same in the Lok Sabha. I have certainly conveyed my view both publicly and privately in that regard,” Tharoor said.

“I think we have a strong number now to stand up to the government and it (Leader of Opposition) should be a leader who is undoubtedly the most popular in the party,” he said, referring to Gandhi.

Using cricketing analogies, Tharoor further said Gandhi was “unquestionably, indeed the man of the match” of the polls and in a number of places the Congress “hit the ball out of the park”.

“In some places we had a tight finish. In my case there was a super over at the end of the T20 in my constituency. Lot of cricketing analogies all over the place but as we are seeing in the World T20, there are some concerns about the pitch we had to bat on and I would say that we had no choice but to play on the pitch we were given but it could certainly have been a far more level playing field than it was,” he said.

In Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor beat Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar by over 16,077 votes.

Asked about the close fight and if the Left made it difficult for him, Tharoor said the CPI candidate Pannyan Raveendran took two and a half lakh votes.

“But the other is the three areas that are represented by the CPI(M), the CPI candidate came last and the BJP candidate came first. There are some legitimate questions being asked as to how exactly and why exactly that happened. But you know at the end of the day, a victory is a victory and we are savouring it as sweet,” Tharoor told PTI.

Talking about the message of the 2024 mandate, Tharoor said the message is very clearly that the Indian voter will not allow democracy to be taken for granted in this way.

“We’ve seen everything from the demonetisation, that was declared without the cabinet even been consulted or informed, to the stringent lockdown that came with a few hours’ notice, with not even the state chief ministers consulted. All of which suggest to me that we are looking at an end to a kind of autocratic rule that had brought discredit to our democracy, not just at home but internationally,” Tharoor said, adding that is the biggest take away.

The government is now a coalition and the prime minister will have to consult alliance partners before major decisions, failing which the government may not survive, the Congress leader said.

Hailing the gains made by the Congress that improved its tally to 99 in the Lok Sabha, Tharoor said it was a very good performance and the leaders were very pleased that the numbers showed up according to “what we saw on the ground”.

“As for what we can improve, there is always room for improvement. Certainly we did not expect to lose every seat in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Those are areas where there would need to be certain introspection within those state units as to what went wrong and headquarters will have to weigh-in as well,” he said.

“On the other hand, we have done well in most other places and if you look at the number of states we have improved our performance, we have vastly outstripped the number of states we remained stagnant in or we’ve gone down,” he said.

Tharoor also credited Gandhi’s two Bharat Jodo Yatras and its alliance strategies for the party’s performance.

Press Trust of India

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