Finance minister Arun Jaitley questioned on Tuesday the Congress’s ability to “anchor” any national alliance in the future if the main opposition party continued to play “tailender” in alliances led by regional parties.
With the BJP predicted to form the next government in Assam, a first in the north-eastern state’s history, he saw his party’s footprints expanding to the southern states too, including Kerala.
“What’s happening is that the Congress is losing election after election. Their wins are in such states where they are a tailender of an alliance,” Jaitley said in an interview with the Hindustan Times.
“The Bihar victory was not theirs. As a tailender of an alliance, if they survive, the Congress party’s ability to be an anchor of a national alliance itself becomes suspect.”
His remarks came a day after exit polls predicted the ouster of Congress-led governments in Kerala and Assam and victory of the DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
In West Bengal, the Congress went for a tacit alliance with arch-rival CPI(M) but the gambit might not pay off as the exit polls suggested the ruling Trinamool Congress retaining power.
By joining the RJD-JD(U) grand alliance in the 2015 Bihar elections, the Congress had managed to be on the winning side and put an end to its losing streak — the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
The opposition party has since been seeking to forge an anti-BJP grouping in the states and at the Centre.
Jaitley was circumspect in his reactions to exit polls that predicted a BJP sweep in Assam and its maiden entry into the Kerala assembly. “Exit polls may give you a direction. Our main stake is in Assam and the exit polls look good,” he said.
The finance minister saw the BJP making rapid strides in the southern states. “We are destined to make a big comeback in Karnataka, the way reports are coming in. In Andhra, we are already in the coalition government. I see an important stride being made in this election in Kerala. Hopefully, we should not only open an account but also get a sizeable voteshare (in Kerala),” he said.
When his views were sought on row over the centralised medical entrance test, Jaitley said: “The states are broadly of the view that integrity of the medical examination has to be maintained and therefore, a national examination is desirable. That’s the view of the states.”
“But give the children the option of regional languages and give them some time to prepare for the uniformity of courses.”
Many states and political parties want the NEET or national eligibility-cum-entrance test deferred by a year . Last month, the Supreme Court had ruled that the NEET would be the sole test for admission to medical courses in the country.