INDIA bloc gives call for unity to oust BJP at Ramlila Maidan's show of strength

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New Delhi, Mar 31 (PTI) Top leaders of the INDIA bloc on Sunday exhorted the people to defeat the BJP to save democracy and the Constitution and alleged that the opposition has been deprived of a level playing field in the Lok Sabha elections due to the government's "dictatorial" actions.


Coming together at the 'Loktantra Bachao' (Save Democracy) rally at Ramlila Maidan in the national capital, the first such show of strength by the opposition after the announcement of Lok Sabha polls, the leaders of 18 major parties gave a fervent call for unity among the alliance partners in national interest.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to do "match-fixing" in the Lok Sabha polls and warned that if the BJP wins the election through this endeavour and "changes" the Constitution, then the whole country would be "finished".

The public meeting was aimed at highlighting the issue of "attack on democracy" including the alleged misuse of agencies against opposition leaders in the aftermath of the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and income tax notices to parties.


Kejriwal’s wife Sunita Kejriwal and JMM leader Hemant Soren’s wife Kalpana Soren also addressed the gathering, lashing out at the central government over the arrest of their husbands in corruption cases.

Reading out a message from Arvind Kejriwal, Sunita Kejriwal told the gathering that they should keep alive the "dream of India which can provide education and health care for all irrespective of whether they are rich or poor.. If you give an opportunity to the INDIA bloc, we will build a great nation." Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge described the RSS-BJP combine as "poison" that has "destroyed" the country, and called on all opposition parties to unite to defeat the ruling party in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

"There is no level-playing field in this election. PM Modi has dug up the ground and is asking the opposition to play cricket there," he said.


This election is to save democracy, the country and the Constitution, he said. 'INDIA' represented the country's spirit of unity in diversity and exhorted for unity among alliance partners in the nation's interest, he also said.

"We need to unite and only then will we be able to fight the BJP. We won't succeed if we keep attacking and fighting each other," Kharge said, adding, "This election is for saving democracy and the Constitution and we must fight unitedly." The BJP is raising the slogan of getting 400 seats, but without EVMs, "match-fixing", pressuring media and buying them, they will not be able to reach even 180 seats, Gandhi claimed.

"When pressure is put on umpires and captain, players are bought off and the match is won, in cricket, it is called match-fixing. We have Lok Sabha polls before us. Who selected the umpires? Before the match started, two players were arrested... Narendra Modi is trying to do match-fixing in these polls," Gandhi said, asserting that this is not an ordinary election but one to save the country's democracy and Constitution.


The country cannot be run by threats and police, and the Constitution is its heartbeat, he said, adding that if the Constitution is finished this country will be torn apart. He alleged that this is the BJP's objective.

This election is to save democracy, the country and the Constitution, he said. 'INDIA' represented the country's spirit of unity in diversity and exhorted for unity among alliance partners in the nation's interest, Kharge said.

"The BJP and the RSS are like poison, don't taste it as it may prove fatal. They have destroyed the country and they should not be allowed to destroy it further," the Congress chief said RJD leader and former Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav also accused PM Modi of 'match-fixing' and urged people to vote out the BJ.


He said PM Modi's guarantee is like Chinese goods and is only meant for polls, as he urged people not to fall for the BJP's "propaganda" in the Lok Sabha polls.

"We are not going to be cowed down by their threats. Only a lion is locked up. We are lions and we also never shy away from struggle," Yadav said.

"We are seeing that undeclared emergency has been imposed in country, those in power have adopted a dictatorial approach, they have become arrogant. We don't want to abuse anyone but we have come to tell people what is being felt across the country," he said.


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M K Stalin said it is only through unity that the opposition can defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and oust the "fascist" BJP to form a federal India.

In his message read out by DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, he said the arrest of Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal shows the BJP's "growing desperation in the face of imminent defeat".

Exhorting the leaders of the INDIA bloc to continue their protest firmly, he said, "If Modi comes to power again, the democratic and constitutional characteristics of India would be uprooted. Please take this message to the masses." "Let us not forget that we can defeat Modi only through our unity! The formation of the alliance has proceeded smoothly in many states. Talks pending in states shall be finalised soon so that we can start our campaign promptly. Only the votes of the people can put a full stop to the BJP's fascist rule," Stalin said.

The other leaders who attended the rally included former Congress president Sonia Gandhi; AAP leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, NC leader Farooq Abdullah, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Dipankar Bhattacharya; and TMC's Derek O'Brien.

In his address, Uddhav Thackeray alleged the country has become an "autocracy" under the Modi government, and appealed to the people to throw the BJP out of power.

"We are not here for an election campaign, we are here to save democracy...what kind of government is this, you make allegations and send people to jail," he said.

Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav urged the people to vote against the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls if they wanted to save democracy in the country.

He also asked why the BJP is misusing agencies against the opposition if it is confident of crossing the 400-seat mark in the upcoming polls.

"Defeat them, send them back. The country will be saved only by your vote. Your vote will save democracy, your vote will save the Constitution, it will save reservation'¦," he said.

The BJP, however, slammed the opposition rally, saying it was not a "save democracy" meeting as projected but a "save family" and "hide corruption" rally.

Addressing the rally, Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren, who took charge after Hemant Soren's resignation ahead of his arrest, said BJP's autocracy and its ideology will not be allowed to flourish. "We are one... we will not allow the ideology and autocracy of BJP to flourish in this country...We are together to save democracy," he added.

The opposition leaders demanded the setting up of a special investigative team, supervised by the Supreme Court, to investigate allegations of "quid pro quo, extortion and money laundering" by the BJP using the Electoral Bonds.

"That despite the undemocratic roadblocks created by the BJP regime, the INDIA alliance is determined and confident to fight and win and save our democracy," said the charter of demands raised at the rally and read out by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

They also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into the quid pro quo by the BJP using electoral bonds and demanded that the Election Commission ensure a level playing field in the Lok Sabha election.

NCP (SCP) chief Sharad Pawar hit out at the Modi government, saying the arrest of Soren and Kejriwal is an attack on the democracy and Constitution of the country.

TMC's Derek O'Brien, whose party is going it alone in West Bengal, said, "All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) is very much was, is and will be part of the INDIA alliance.” CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, "Today a new energy has been created in Indian politics, which will make Indian democracy win and autocracy lose..." Yechury said.

"The country is facing a calamity, a big calamity, and we have to save our country," said CPI general secretary D Raja. PTI BM SJJ SLB AO ASK SKC RT RT