Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday asked party leaders in Maharashtra to put up a united show in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to ensure victory and told them to apply ‘tan-man-dhan’ (body-mind-resources) “as they were in power for 15 years”. The Congress was in power in Maharashtra along with the NCP for 15 years in a row till 2014, before a BJP-led government took over the reins of the state.
Kharge, the Congress’ general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra, made the remarks at the launch of the party’s ‘Jan Sangharsh Yatra’ in Kolhapur in the presence of former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan and other leaders.
Kharge said the ruling BJP would not be able to hold its ground once the Congress leaders toiled unitedly for victory.
He charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “vitiating the atmosphere” in the country and pitching one community against the other and called for change of guard at the Centre and Maharashtra.
“We stood on the stage (during the campaign launch programme) holding and raising each other’s hands. But at the same time, there is a need for tan-man-dhan (for the Congress to win the polls),” Kharge told a gathering of party workers here.
“Tan-man-dhan has to be there because you also ruled for 15-20 years. You were in power. All should cooperate,” he added.
Calling for a “fear-free” and “BJP-free” India, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan said his party was ready to face polls any time.
“We have to create fear-free and BJP-free Maharashtra and India. No change would take place in Maharashtra or India otherwise. It is a battle of ideology,” Chavan said at the function.
Alleging that freedom of speech was facing a threat under BJP rule, Chavan said his party was not afraid of taking steps required to “strengthen democracy”.
Amid talks of Lok Sabha polls being brought forward, he added, “We are fully prepared for the election. Let it take place anytime, even if it takes place in November.”
Kharge hit out at Modi for questioning what the Congress had done in the past 70 years and reiterated that the latter wouldn’t have been PM if the Congress had not protected democracy.
Kharge further charged the state government with protecting the killers of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
He also slammed the BJP for atrocities against Dalits, attacks on minorities and cases of mob lynching.
“We have to remove them...Our fight is not for returning to power, but against their (BJP’s) ideology,” he added.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Opposition Leader in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, senior leader Balasaheb Thorat and others addressed the event.
During the launch of the campaign, leaders from the Congress accused the BJP of reneging on its promises on job creation, improving the agrarian situation and curbing price rise.
The first phase of the Jan Sangharsh Yatra will culminate on September 8 in Pune while the next phase would be launched in north Maharashtra on Gandhi Jayanti.
The three-and-half month campaign will cover Marathwada and Vidarbha regions before culminating in Mumbai.
Earlier today, Congress leaders met representatives of Maratha and Lingayat communities, both of which have been protesting for reservations.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil pitched for the party to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha poll from Kolhapur seat, which is currently represented by Dhananjay Mahadik of the NCP.
The Congress and NCP have stated that they would contest the general elections, slated for next year, in alliance and are in seat sharing talks.
Hit by the Narendra Modi wave in the 2014 general elections, the Congress could win only two out of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, registering its worst ever performance.