Hung government might not sustain a full term, says Sam Pitroda as Congress-led INDIA Bloc curtails Modi’s BJP    

Ritu Jha-

The seven-phase-long general election of the world’s largest democracy started on April 19 and concluded on June 1, with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA winning 293 seats and INDIA Bloc triumphing in an unexpected 232 constituencies. However, sending shockwaves around the political spectrum in both India and overseas was the BJP’s underwhelming performance.

Projected to go beyond 400, the ‘Modi Magic’ failed to reach the desired number as the saffron juggernaut experienced a jolt and came to a screeching halt, securing just 240 seats, and failing to even get an absolute majority on its own. Even though the BJP emerged as the single biggest winner, in terms of seats won, it was the Indian National Congress, who were all smiles, despite their runners up finish, by virtue of the 99 seats they managed to win. Almost written off by pundits and the media alike, the Congress staged a roaring comeback and reminded that nothing in politics is ever set in stone. Along with the Congress, one man who managed to find his mojo back was Rahul Gandhi, as he won not just Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, but pocketed the Wayanad constituency in Kerala as well.

On the day of the results, Indica reached out to Sam Pitroda, the former Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) for an exclusive interview. Pitroda, who resigned from his post on May 8, over a controversial statement, shed light on the results and how the consecration of the grand Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya, once touted as the biggest trump card for Modi and Co, did not help him to earn the majority in the Lok Sabha polls. The 82-year-old also opened up about his relationship with Rahul Gandhi and spoke about his mentee, while expressing confidence about the INDIA Bloc forming the government in the country.

One of the prime reasons for the BJP’s dwindling numbers was its lackluster performance in Uttar Pradesh. The team lost 29 seats to finish with 33, while Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party won in 37, giving the alliance a big boost.

Of the many defeats which were met with shock, was BJP’s loss in Faizabad, which comprises Ayodhya, where two times incumbent BJP candidate Lallu Singh lost to Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad. Speaking about the result, Pitroda said that the inauguration of the temple was for the rich and famous.

The jets which landed at the Ayodhya Airport, ferried the rich and famous. Pitroda further said that the fancy clothes that they wore is not what Indian people are used to. It was a show. He said the idea would have worked for a movie, but that it played out in reality didn’t strike a chord with the locals, who felt a sense of disconnect with the Ram Temple.

The other factor, he said, was the fear among people that BJP getting an absolute majority would fiddle with the constitution. Pitroda said that the lack of word from the incumbent party about matters such as jobs and their divisive strategy caused people to vote for the opposition. He said that through this, the people sent a message that: “I want democracy and I do not want dictators and that’s the message to me at the end of the day.”

Pitroda said that people rejected Modi and not BJP because everything was seen as Modi ki guarantee (Modi’s Guarantee). “Modi will deliver and people feel that this is not the democracy that we want,” he said.

Lauding Rahul Gandhi’s message of inclusion, the former IOC chief said, “I think the people of India have spoken and Rahul’s message of inclusion went through well saying we need opportunities for OBC, Dalit, minority and we need jobs for the young and security for women, and the environment and we need to take care of the farmers.”

“I think the manifesto was very well done,” he said. Interestingly, Pitroda worked in tandem with Gandhi to prepare the Congress manifesto for the India General Elections 2024.

Recalling his bond with the Gandhi scion, Pitroda said that Rahul would meet him whenever he would travel to India after Rajiv Gandhi’s death. “The mentorship, I wouldn’t call it a mentor but promoting him to overseas audience since he was in the US several times. Even this morning we spoke, and I speak with him regularly,” he said.

Calling Rahul a good human being, he said that when he is happy. The Indian telecommunication engineer also let Indica on a secret as he shared his communication style that he uses with Rahul Gandhi. Pitroda said the two exchanges emojis on WhatsApp and Gandhi shared three emojis on Tuesday as he was very happy with the results.

Asked what would happen next now that INDIA Bloc has not received a majority, Pitroda said now that the results are out, the partners will meet and decide what steps they should take, whether they should go forward and form the government or let the BJP form its third consecutive government.

The octogenarian opined that the hung government might not sustain a full term of five years. “In couple of years, we may have another election.” However, he believes Narendra Modi will do anything to sustain his position as the Prime Minister of India.

When asked why he believed in Rahul Gandhi at a time when the tide was against the lawmaker, Pitroda said, “Because I believe in Congress party. I was born in the British Raj, and so I am a product of the British Raj, but the fervor and ethos of the independent movement. In 1950, 1951, 1952 it was still Gandhiji’s, Indra Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhian values of truth, trust, love and equality, liberty, respect for all religion, and language. Even though we are different, we are all one. I am a product of the Congress party because when India became independent, millions of poor people like my father left free. I am a product of a man who felt the power of independent India.

“I could go to college almost free, low fee, and how can I forget. All that was possible because the Congress party had the idea of democracy. We knew what was going in Pakistan. Zia ul Haq, the president of Pakistan was there, and we could see the contrast. We were very proud of our democracy, and we did not mind chaos and debate, but didn’t appreciate the authoritarian mindset.

“I have seen Rajiv as the custodian of idea of India, and when he died, Sonia Gandhi became the custodian, and then Rahul became the custodian of idea of India. There is nothing to do with dynasty.

“My inherent reaction was it was my job to protect the idea of India. This guy is the custodian of the idea of India, and he is a son of my friend, who gave meaning to my life. It is true or else I would have been just an engineer,” Pitroda said.

It was a turnaround of gargantuan proportions for the Congress as even the regional parties had lost trust in the INC and referred to it as a lost party. Pitroda alleged that the BJP wanted to break the idea of India, and spend a huge amount of money to create a negative image of Rahul Gandhi as Pappu.

However, he hailed the Bharat Jodo Yatra, undertaken by Gandhi before the polls as a watershed moment for the massive turnaround. “Not just people, but it changed Rahul, and made him bold. Now Rahul speaks with confidence,” Pitroda said.

Pitroda also said that the BJP-NDA would twist his words to create a false narrative and malign him. Speaking about his resignation, he said, “The larger goal was no matter what I say, they will twist and make agenda for 24 hours, and so I resigned.”

“I wanted to make sure I do not become the target to hurt party in a negative way,” he said. Pitroda stated that he is not hungry for job or feel the need to be an MP.

On Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s role in the Amethi win, he said she traveled all over and did a good campaign. Dissecting her role, the former IOC chief said had Gandhi Vadra contested, she would have been locked down to one seat. So, she traveled all over. “Now she can contest Raebareli [one of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh] as Rahul will give up.” Rahul Gandhi has won both Wayanad and Raebareli, as stated above. He has to give up one of these constituencies. Gandhi, who won the Wayanad seat in 2019 and did an encore, is expected to keep the seat in Kerala while conceding the UP seat, making way for others to fight in a by-election.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi during a press conference said he has not yet decided which seat to retain.

Asked if Rahul Gandhi is perfect to run the country, Pitroda lent his support and said, Of course, but again, no one is perfect, Rajiv or Indra Gandhi was not perfect, but you grow in that job and people join you and help you and that is what democracy is all about. So, we all should wait and watch for a week.”

Indica also reached out to George Abraham, Vice-Chairman and Former President of the Indian Overseas Congress, who campaigned in India to support the INC. Speaking about the results, he said, “The people of India have unequivocally rejected the BJP’s agenda, which sought to undermine the constitution and transform the country. This election outcome is a resounding endorsement of the current constitutional framework, envisioned and implemented by Nehru and Ambedkar.”

If Narendra Modi and Amit Shah persist in governing India through their makeshift coalition, it is imperative for them to uphold the constitution. They must cease the divisive and unscrupulous politics, halt the weaponization of investigating agencies, and govern the country in accordance with the law and its constitution. It is high time for people to exercise their inherent right to express their opinions without fear of arrest or the cancellation of their OCI cards. The Fourth Estate should be allowed to function freely, promoting objective journalism that reaches people without bias or prejudice.

“We at the Overseas Congress salute the INDIA coalition and its leaders, especially AICC President Kharge Ji and Rahul Ji, for their tireless efforts in getting the message to the people, which elicited the current response through the ballot boxes,” he added.

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