'Have to behave like big brother…'? Mehbooba Mufti says 'yes', Cong says…

Mar 29, 2023 06:00 PM IST

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after a Gujarat court convicted him of criminal defamation over a 2019 comment.

The Congress on Wednesday played down talk of a 'big brother' role in uniting the opposition ahead of the 2024 election and called for a collective effort to oust prime minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Jammu (ANI Photo)
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Jammu (ANI Photo)

Congress leader Salman Khurshid - responding to a comment by ex-Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti - said: "We do not want to play the role of a big brother... collective effort should be made… all should come together and all leaders should decide who will get what responsibility or rights."

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"(Mallikarjun) Kharge ji called all leaders (to unite and protest Rahul Gandhi's Lok Sabha disqualification) and almost all came. Many leaders - who were not saying anything before - have openly supported Rahulji… we hope this will be taken forward soon and all will decide together."

Khurshid, a former external affairs minister, said the opposition understood the need for unity and that the Congress is hopeful these efforts will be positive.

"Everyone will see the ground reality and know how much one is worth. This can be discussed when all of us sit together… there is a unanimity… that all of us have to unite to fight this big challenge. We are hopeful there will be unity."

Congress leading opposition unity efforts?

The Congress has received significant support from other opposition parties - including those who have stayed away from its recent efforts to unite the challenge to the BJP - since the Lok Sabha rushed to disqualify Rahul Gandhi.

Monday's protest, for example, was attended by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool and ex-Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party after they agreed to stay away from the Congress and the BJP.

The Trinamool's presence was noteworthy since Mamata Banerjee and the Congress traded sharp barbs in the run-up to the 2021 Bengal election - and do so even now, with Mamata this month accusing the Congress and BJP of forming an 'unholy alliance' - as they jostle for space to fight the BJP.

Also present was Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao's Bharat Rashtra Samithi. KCR, as he is called, has made no secret of his prime ministerial ambition and his vision of a 'third front', i.e., a non-BJP and non-Congress coalition that has seen him reach out to other regional outfits.

READ | 'Black shirt' protest for Rahul Gandhi sees surprise Trinamool visit

The Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal was also present and the Delhi chief minister made strong comments in support of Rahul Gandhi, including accusing the BJP of behaving in an 'arrogant' and 'dictator'-like manner.

What did Mehbooba Mufti say?

The swell of support for the Congress following Rahul Gandhi's disqualification (and eviction from the 12, Tughlak Lane bungalow in Delhi) were noted by Mufti earlier today, who called on the party to 'behave like an elder brother'.

"Congress will have to behave like an elder brother. It should not choke space… it should create space for other opposition parties - which have been its alliance partners in the past - to save democracy in the country," she said.

"Country is passing through a critical situation.. it is do-(or)-die. It is not just about survival of Rahul Gandhi, it is about the survival of democracy."

The former J&K chief minister also accused the BJP of having attacked democracy in 2018 to disrupt the Congress, her PDP and former CM Farooq Abdullah's National Conference from forming the government.

"It was the first attack on democracy by (the) BJP and, unfortunately, the rest of the opposition in the country didn't react as they should have…"

With input from PTI

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