BJP mocks INDIA as 'missile that will not take off', Uddhav hits back

In response to a gibe by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, Uddhav Thackeray said not even a ride on Chandrayaan would take the BJP past the finishing line

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray (left) and NCP chief Sharad Pawar at a Maha Vikas Aghadi press conference in Mumbai ahead of the third INDIA meeting to be held on 31 August and 1 September (photo: Getty Images)
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray (left) and NCP chief Sharad Pawar at a Maha Vikas Aghadi press conference in Mumbai ahead of the third INDIA meeting to be held on 31 August and 1 September (photo: Getty Images)

Sujata Anandan

Even as leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) alliance are on their way to Mumbai and the meeting is to get underway in right earnest this evening, a war of words has broken out between a nervous BJP and a gung-ho Opposition.

Obviously, most of the BJP's fire was targeted at the Congress, the party best placed to lead the alliance to electoral success. So BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was not beyond trying to seize on the success of Chandrayaan-3 and say, “We are riding on Chandrayaan. Our rover is on the way to development. The Congress missile is empty without fuel. It will never take off.”

Congress leaders ignored the jibe but Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, who is hosting tonight’s meet, was quick to fire back. “Even if you take a ride on Chandrayaan, your missile is not crossing the finishing line. We may all be ideologically very diverse parties but we have a common mission that binds us together — to defeat the BJP and save the nation from destruction."

CPI general secretary D Raja spoke in a similar vein when he said, "The primary objective of the INDIA alliance is to fight collectively and defeat the BJP in order to save the nation, the Constitution, democracy, secularism, and federalism. Nothing else." He also said the country was in great trouble and facing multiple crises. “It has to be liberated from the clutches of the BJP-RSS." 

The INDIA alliance is confident that the BJP government will be removed from power in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, he added.

To the BJP’s comment that there is a game of musical chairs on between the alliance partners (read fight for leadership), alliance leaders, including Sharad Pawar, were categorical in stating that their focus is going to be on seat sharing arrangements, for there are many states where these will need to be handled "with finesse and diplomacy". 

The BJP has also reminded the nation that this kind of alliance was formed earlier as well, but by the time the elections came around, alliance partners had begun fighting among themselves. In response, alliance leaders have asked the party to recall its own history.

The Janata Party alliance that came together, including the Jan Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, defeated the Congress in 1977. But it collapsed essentially because Jan Sangh leaders like LK Advani and AB Vajpayee refused to to give up their dual membership, while all other leaders only held memberships of the Janata Party, having given up their original affiliations. But when they came together before the elections, they were highly fractious political parties with nothing in common except the will to defeat Mrs Indira Gandhi and correct the supposed wrongs of her regime.

Nearly half a century later, the BJP is making no bones about being an RSS organisation, and it is the Congress that is leading the charge. Despite the BJP’s hope that the alliance will collapse under its own contradictions, that reverse seems to be happening for now.

After initial assertions by their respective supporters, most alliance leaders have refrained from pushing themselves to a prominent role, and despite rumours that there is a dispute about who should be convenor, sources say either Nitish Kumar or Pawar are likely to be given the role by general consent.

Two more parties, the Rashtriya Lok Dal among them, are attending the Mumbai meet. Prakash Ambedkar of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi has not been invited, perhaps because of his sharp attacks on Pawar of late. But when asked to comment, rather than express outrage, he said, “Uddhav Thackeray is my advocate at this meet, I need not be physically present. He will represent my case.”  Sources say Ambedkar may be part of the next meet as every effort is underway to bury differences and maximise voter pools.

The desire not to squabble among each other ahead of some crucial decisions is the most remarkable thing coming out of the INDIA alliance. The BJP will need more than abusive statements and catchy slogans to combat this new formation.

The INDIA alliance will unveil its logo this evening, ahead of an exclusive dinner hosted by Uddhav Thackeray.

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