SENIOR CONGRESS leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move of releasing cheetahs in a Madhya Pradesh national park as “tamasha” and a “tactic to divert attention” from the “success” of the party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.
Ramesh said during a press conference at the state Congress headquarters in Kolkata, “It has been ten days since the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ started. The spontaneous response we received shows that the initiative is turning out to be immensely successful. This has irked the BJP and its leadership. They now want to change the narrative and are looking for diversionary tactics. The ‘dirty tricks department’ of the BJP is now working overtime to create a separate media narrative or to find flaws in the Congress’s Yatra. This release of the cheetahs is the latest from that department after its attempts to create issues over a T-shirt and other things.”
Without naming Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee or her party, the Trinamool Congress, Ramesh said there “cannot be an opposition unity without the Congress.” He urged other parties not to “backstab” or “weaken” the Congress.
“If people are interested in opposition unity, they must understand two things. Without a strong Congress, no opposition unity is possible and secondly, a coalition government must have a strong Congress. There are several parties which want Opposition unity so that the Congress is weakened. We will not let this happen. Opposition parties should know that if you want to come along with Congress, don’t weaken it. Do not back-stab the Congress,” said Ramesh.
The former Union minister also said the “third front experiment” should not be repeated in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
In an apparent jibe at the TMC, Ramesh said, “Opposition unity means reaching an understanding. Some parties even add ‘Congress’ to their names. There are multiple parties in India that have been formed out of the Congress and insist on using the word ‘Congress’. I wish we had patent rights on the word.”
Responding to Ramesh’s remarks, TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said later in the day, “Neither Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee nor TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has advocated for an opposition unity without the Congress. They have said that the Congress has not played the role of the opposition in uniting other opposition parties. The Congress has failed to defeat the BJP in several states where they are in a direct contest with them. But the TMC has defeated the BJP in West Bengal. Having said that, no one is saying that there should be an opposition unity without the Congress. We want them to defeat the BJP in other states and wake up from its slumber.”
Talking about the Congress party’s yatra, undertaken by senior leader Rahul Gandhi from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Ramesh, who was accompanied by his party colleague Digvijay Singh, said: “The country is going through a situation where our politics, economy and institutions are falling apart. We always took pride in our unity in diversity.The BJP is trying to destroy that. This yatra is against the policy and politics of the BJP,” Ramesh said.
He added, “The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ started from Kanyakumari and will end in Kashmir. It is a vertical yatra moving from south to north, covering 12 states that come in its way. But we have plans to take out separate rallies in Assam and West Bengal.” Later, it was informed that the state Congress leadership would decide on the details of the ‘Bharat Jodo West Bengal Yatra’ on September 20.
Later in the day, Ramesh tweeted, “PM hardly ever acknowledges continuity in governance. Cheetah project going back to my visit to Cape Town on 25.04.2010 is the latest example. The tamasha orchestrated by PM today is unwarranted and is yet another diversion from pressing national issues and #BharatJodoYatra.”
“When tigers were first translocated to Panna and Sariska during 2009-11, there were many prophets of doom. They were proved wrong. Similar predictions are being made on the Cheetah project. The professionals involved are first-rate and I wish the project the very best!” Ramesh added.