Cannot deny existence of UPA, Oppn leaders should try to bolster it: Baghel
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel says Mamata Banerjee’s comments last week that there is no UPA any more were indicative of a changed tenor after a meeting with PM Narendra Modi
The Opposition fought under the banner of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) despite a change in the national government in 2014, and leaders should strengthen that formation, Chhattisgarh chief minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel said on Saturday, while accusing Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s of changing her tenor after she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.
Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2021, Baghel, who is also the party observer for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, also hit out at Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, saying he had not left his bungalow for the past five years, and is only emerging in public when state elections are on the anvil.
Taking umbrage at Banerjee’s comment last week that there is no UPA any more, Baghel said: “How can you say UPA doesn’t exist when UPA ran the government for 10 years with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi as UPA chairperson? After the 10 years, we have constantly struggled and it is under the banner of the UPA we have fought. We have helped each other. Then today suddenly you will deny its existence?”
He added that Banerjee’s comments were indicative of a changed tenor after a meeting with Modi. Her political history of separating from the Congress, allying with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and then the UPA, meant that she could “go with any party”, he added.
“After she met the Prime Minister, she has not said what they talked about. She should tell us. When the West Bengal elections were on, what was her attitude, and now that she has met, it has been more than a week, and she is silent. And after meeting him, she is attacking the Congress. If you are not in the UPA, then why are you attacking the Congress? If you really want to become the opposition face, then you should be attacking the BJP or the government at the Centre,” he said in a conversation with HT’s National Political Editor Sunetra Choudhury.
When asked if he agreed in principle that opposition parties must come together, Baghel said they should, but cooperation was only possible when conversations were respectful.
“There is one NDA, and the other is UPA. Till now it was like this, and those formations have been continuing. If work is done on that formation (UPA), then that is a good thing. The leaders of the opposition must contemplate on how it should be strengthened,” Baghel said, adding that the inevitable question of leadership would also emerge out of such consultation.
Baghel, who now also plays an important role for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, regularly touring the state, said the people of the state had made up their minds to reject the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government, and that Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was emerging as a fighter on the ground.
“Wherever there is injustice, whether it is farmers or Dalits or adivasis, she is reaching out to them, and wiping their tears,” he said. “She has been arrested, has been unnecessarily troubled but she has stuck to her issues. Uttar Pradesh is being able to see a face that is fighting on the ground.”
With elections now months away in the state, Baghel said the Congress has nothing to lose in Uttar Pradesh and the results will “surprise everyone”, but attacked SP chief and former CM Akhilesh Yadav for even doing dharnas “inside his bungalow” for the past five years. “When the Lakhimpur incident happened, where was Akhilesh? When Hathras happened, where was he? When adivasis were being attacked, where was he? Will he come only for votes?” Baghel asked.
Despite the repeal of the three farm laws by the Union government, Baghel said it was clear that the BJP had failed India’s farmers, and it still does not consider the farm laws a mistake. “The BJP kept calling protesters Pakistan supporters, andolanjeevi, terrorists and everything else…But even now what you hear from the statements of BJP leaders is that they were unable to make people understand the farm laws. They have not admitted their mistake,” he said.
Baghel backed the demand for a minimum support price (MSP) guarantee, and said that it was clear farmers in India were angry with the government, and said that a fertilizer crisis was affecting the winter farming season.
“Farmers are saying give us MSP. In Chhattisgarh, for the past three years, we have been buying on MSP… Today in Chhattisgarh this means ₹2,540 for farmers. If you go to Uttar Pradesh or other state where there is no setup, they are forced to sell paddy at ₹1,000 or ₹1,200. If the government of India has declared MSP at ₹1,940, then farmers should get that. In the entire country there is a shortage of DAP (Di ammonium phosphate) fertilizers. The rabi (winter) crop is upon us. Where there are elections in Uttar Pradesh, in Madhya Pradesh where they (BJP) have a government, there is no DAP available,” he said.