Bhupesh Baghel terms Narendra Modi's '400 paar' claim as "hollow"

Senior Congress leader says INDIA bloc will get a clear majority to form the next government

Senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel (photo: @bhupeshbaghel/X)
Senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel (photo: @bhupeshbaghel/X)


Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi's '400 paar' claim as "hollow", senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel on Tuesday, 19 March, said the BJP's Ram temple pitch "would not make much of a difference" in the Lok Sabha polls and exuded confidence that the INDIA bloc will get a clear majority to form the next government.

In an interview with PTI, the former Chhattisgarh chief minister also claimed that the Lok Sabha polls will be Narendra Modi versus the "whole of India".

He expressed confidence that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) will get a majority to form the government at the Centre, while the Congress would be victorious in more than half of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh.

Asked about whether the INDIA bloc was still strong enough to take on the BJP despite JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar switching over to the NDA and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee deciding to go solo, Baghel said, "Our natural alliance partners are with us, in fact our alliance has expanded with the likes of Uddhav Thackeray, Prakash Ambedkar along with several small parties joining us."

"So our alliance is strong, in fact there are tensions in the National Democratic Alliance camp. You can see in Haryana, there is push and pull between uncle and nephew in Bihar (Chirag Paswan and Pashupati Paras), in Uttar Pradesh also (Om Prakash) Rajbhar and Apna Dal faction are also upset with seat distribution. So we don't see anyone going with them and more people are leaving their alliance," he claimed.

On suggestions that a Ram temple wave was being experienced in north India, Baghel said the BJP is giving the slogan "Jisne Ram ko laya hai, usko hum layenge" but everyone is the son or daughter of God.

"Who are these people to bring Ram. This would not make much of a difference (in the polls)," he told PTI over phone while campaigning in Rajnandgaon.

Asked about contesting from Rajnandgaon being a risk considering it is a BJP bastion, Baghel asserted there is no risk.

"Will win easily, it is a very good seat. Former BJP CM Raman Singh had been an MP from Chhattisgarh but before that another former chief minister Motilal Vora was also an MP from Chhattisgarh. It depends how one fights," the former Chhattisgarh CM said.

Acknowledging that since the formation of Chhattisgarh, the Congress has not won more than two seats in Lok Sabha polls, Baghel said there have been various reasons for that.

"But right now the situation is that the assembly poll results surprised people, they thought 'how did this happen'. It was in people's hearts that the government had to be repeated. So with the regret people have in their hearts that the government could not be repeated, we will benefit from that in these polls in Chhattisgarh," he said.

Baghel argued there was no wave in favour of the BJP in north India.

"If there would have been a wave then its leaders would not have withdrawn their nominations after their name was announced. There would not have been any need to align with Jayant Chaudhary (RLD). What is the intention behind this?" he said.

"They are giving five Bharat Ratnas in a space of few months at the time of polls. So this shows their fear, they are rattled, one can make out from the statements being made by BJP leaders," he claimed.

Baghel also raised the issue of the Supreme Court verdict in the electoral bonds case and hit out at the prime minister.

"He (Modi) used to say that I will end corruption, this is the biggest scam that is out in the open. They are censoring it in the media, it was not published in any Hindi newspapers. The more you want to hide it the more people would seek out that information," he said.

If one hides it, the more it spreads on social media, Baghel added.

"It is a big issue because he had projected his image that I am very honest but it has come to light that this is the biggest scam of the decade. This involves corruption, extortion and protection. 'Chanda do, dhanda lo (give donation, get business)'," he charged.

They would get firms investigated by agencies such as the ED and the CBI and then after donation, no action would be taken against them, he alleged.

"Same thing is being done with opposition leaders, allegations are made against them and probe agencies are unleashed and when they join the BJP they become clean in Modi washing machine," he said.

Baghel said the electoral bonds issue would become the rallying point for the opposition parties.

If one acts opposed to the image that had been projected then people will not like it, he said, in a dig at Prime Minister Modi.

Baghel claimed the FIR against him in the Mahadev online betting case was done to defame him since the BJP anticipates a defeat in the polls.

"There was no FIR in the whole country. The FIR was done in Chhattisgarh and over 70 of them, more than 450 arrests were made, there were seizures of laptops, mobiles, over 1,000 bank accounts and more than 200 ATM cards were seized, so we took action. It is being alleged that I am taking protection money. If I was taking protection money why would I take action," he argued.

"Mahadev app is being run in BJP-ruled states as well so when they are not taking action, they would be getting protection money. There are two directors, they are abroad, we issued a look out circular and it was the Centre's responsibility to nab them," he said.

Baghel termed as "hollow" Prime Minister Modi's claim that the BJP would get at least 370 seats and NDA would be "400 paar" in the Lok Sabha polls.

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