‘Tiger zinda hai’: Jairam Ramesh rejects BJP’s claims of 2024 being done deal

Several BJP leaders have asserted that a third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is certain in 2024 and the party has set a target of over 400 plus seats.

Imphal: Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has rejected the BJP’s claims that the 2024 poll results are a foregone conclusion, saying “Tiger zinda hai” and that the opposition bloc will repeat the history of 2004 when the saffron party was unseated from power despite its ‘shining India’ campaign.

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In an interview with PTI, Ramesh asserted that only a strong Congress can ensure a strong opposition and the ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ is an effort to strengthen the grand old party.

On how the poll preparations will be handled by the party while also managing its east to west yatra, Ramesh said a party organisation is in place and Rahul Gandhi would be part of the campaign despite his preoccupation with the yatra.

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“The yatra will end by the time polls start. I expect the elections to start somewhere, maybe in the first week of April by which time the yatra would have been over. Meetings can always be held on Zoom. I don’t see it as a problem,” he said, dismissing concerns that poll preparations may be hampered due to Gandhi’s over 6,700 km Manipur to Mumbai yatra.

When asked about the BJP’s narrative that 2024 poll results were a foregone conclusion and what would he tell them, Ramesh, while borrowing from a popular Hindi film title, quipped, “Tiger zinda hai, that is my constant refrain.”

Several BJP leaders have asserted that a third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is certain in 2024 and the party has set a target of over 400 plus seats.

‘History will repeat itself’

On whether he believes that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) can spring a surprise in the 2024 general elections, Ramesh said, “All I can say is that in 2003, we lost Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, people wrote the Congress off, but in 2004, the Congress formed the government. India was shining at that time.”

“History will repeat itself,” he told PTI on Saturday evening.

People will be moved more by ‘anyay kaal’ (period of injustice) of the last 10 years than the dream of ‘amrit kaal’, Ramesh said.

“Amrit kaal is a dream, anyay kaal is a nightmare,” he added.

In 2004, the Congress came back to power leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government while the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government lost the polls despite its high-decibel ‘shining India’ campaign.

On Nyay yatra

On whether the yatra will strengthen opposition unity with the Congress party also inviting all INDIA bloc leaders to join in along its route, Ramesh said, “A weak Congress cannot ensure a strong opposition. Only a strong Congress can ensure a strong opposition. This ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ is to strengthen the Congress.”

Talking about the need for a follow-up yatra after the Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra which was also led by Gandhi, Ramesh said the yatra from Manipur is a continuation of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and is derived from the first line of the Constitution which assures to all people of India justice.

“There are four pillars to the Preamble: justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Now much of the Yatra had to do with liberty, equality, and fraternity but now we are focusing on the first pillar which is mentioned in the first line of the Preamble- justice, economic, social, and political,” the Congress general secretary said.

“So the main focus of this yatra is to take the Bharat Jodo Yatra forward with a focus on highlighting the last ten years which were not ‘amrit kaal’ but ‘anyay kaal’ and what is the Congress’ vision of ensuring political justice, economic justice and social justice,” he said.

The yatra is also a way of connecting leadership with inner party organisation.

“We saw the results of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and I am not judging the results by what happened in Karnataka or Telangana. As I explained once, what it did was it brought about better connectivity for Rahul Gandhi and better collectivity for the organisation,” he said.

So this connectivity and collectivity are very important for the organisation, he added.

‘Electoral impact of yatra not primary concern’

“This (yatra) is going to have an electoral impact or not is not my primary concern.
It is a yatra by a political party. It is an ideological yatra and not an electoral yatra,” he asserted.

Ramesh said he is not going to judge the yatra on how many seats Congress is going to win in the 2024 polls.

“What Rahul Gandhi is attempting to do in this yatra is basically reinforce the ideological message of the Congress, to highlight various injustices that have been inflicted on people and articulate over the next 66 days what the Congress and what he sees is the specific agenda for ensuring economic, social and political justice,” he said.

He said the yatra is also about strengthening democratic institutions, freeing the country from one-man rule, and highlighting in what way injustices have been done to women, farmers, and youth.

“Yes, the Congress party is ideologically committed but it needs reinforcement from time to time, it needs communication from time to time and that is what he (Gandhi) is attempting to do,” Ramesh said.

He said it was not just about setting the agenda for the 2024 polls but about setting the agenda for the nation’s politics and public discourse.

“Of course 2024 is an intermediate milestone that we have to pass. Ultimately we have to fight polls, we are not an NGO. But I’m not going to use that as a yardstick for determining what we are going to do as part of the yatra,” he stressed.

The Yatra will traverse 6,713 km, mostly by bus. It will cover 100 LS constituencies, and 110 districts in 67 days, before culminating in Mumbai on March 20 or 21.

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