Bhartruhari takes dig at Rahul, says Nitish’s alliance plan in ’embryo’

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New Delhi: Senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab today took a dig at Rahul Gandhi for his politics of “photo opportunities”, wondering whether the Congress Vice President was preparing for the 2024 elections.

Mahtab, BJD’s leader in the Lok Sabha, also insisted that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s endeavour to create a front at the national level to take on BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is “still in the embryo”.

“The Vice President of the Congress is going to Universities and indulging in all sorts of photo opportunities. What sort of votebank he is creating? Is he thinking of 2024? I wish him best of luck,” Mahtab told PTI.

Mahtab said in national politics, Congress is losing out.

Maintaining that earlier the Congress had some “strategic” votebank, he said it lost Uttar Pradesh with dalits throwing its weight behind the BSP. Since then the Congress has been unable to finish even second or third in the electoral tally in the key state, he said.

“Now AAP has taken over Delhi and there are doubts whether the Congress can retain its second position in Punjab,” the BJD veteran, respected even by his rivals for his effective interventions during Parliamentary debates, said.

On the Assembly elections in five states which are currently under way, he said Congress is on the backfoot.

“BJP is trying to form government in Assam. In Kerala, Congress is on its way out. In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, there is a contest between two regional parties and in West Bengal, between a regional party and the Left Front,” he said.

He said the outcome of these polls will have an impact on the Uttar Pradesh elections next year which will be a curtain raiser of sorts for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

On Nitish Kumar’s plans to sew up an anti-BJP front, Mahtab said these are still early days.

“How far Nitish Kumar will be able to bring like minded parties together along with Congress, that too on a national platform, that too as an alternative to the BJP, is still in the embryo,” Mahtab said.

He dismissed suggestions that Nitish was planning a third front at the national level.

“I would not say that Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief is pursuing Third Front politics. As I foresee it, he is trying to form a non-BJP front along with the Congress,” Mahtab said.
He said the trend being witnessed in Indian politics is that Congress is losing out, BJP is going strong and keeping that in mind, a non-BJP front is being talked about.

He said there are very few states where Congress is directly pitted against the BJP today. In most of the states, other regional parties are opposing the BJP, he said.

Asked whether BJD would back Nitish’s efforts for an anti-BJP front, he said, “It is too early to say. 2019 is still three years away. Let us see.”

At the same time, he said that BJD led by Naveen Patnaik party is equidistant from Congress and BJP and “our party believes in secular credentials and will continue to do so”.

BJD has 20 members in the Lok Sabha, all from Odisha, a state being ruled by the party for more than 15 years.

Last week, Congress had dismissed as “too premature” party leader Digvijaya Singh’s remark that it is ready to work with Nitish Kumar at the national level to bring about “largest possible unity” among parties to defeat BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Congress, however, said it has always worked in the larger interest of democratic, secular and progressive forces in the country.

Congress is part of the Nitish Kumar-led coalition government, which also includes Lalu Prasad’s RJD.

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