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INTERVIEW| NDA government won't last five years, says Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi

3 days ago 17

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NEW DELHI: The BJP's approach to parliamentary democracy will not change as long as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at the helm but in footballing terms, the "wall of defenders" is now bigger and much more robust with over 230 INDIA bloc MPs in the Lok Sabha, says Congress' Gaurav Gogoi.

In an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency's headquarters here, Gogoi also predicted that the coalition NDA government will not last a full term, saying Modi's leadership style does not inspire confidence that he can complete five years successfully.

"I do see that in the 236 MPs of the INDIA bloc, we will have a Parliament where they cannot bulldoze bills, intimidate us, suspend us.

They had suspended 146 MPs (last year), will they suspend 236 this time?" the deputy leader of the Congress in the previous Lok Sabha said.

Gogoi dismissed suggestions that NDA allies TDP's Chandrababu Naidu and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar gave in to the BJP on government formation, saying they have "extremely shrewd political minds" and should not be judged quickly as "only time will tell what their true intentions are".

Fresh from his Lok Sabha polls triumph from the BJP stronghold of Jorhat in Assam with a massive margin of over 1.44 lakh, the Congress leader said he does not expect the BJP's approach to parliamentary democracy to change till the time Modi is the prime minister.

"He simply does not have the flexibility to change his approach even within his own party. The PMO will direct the cabinet colleagues.

Even now his allies will keep demanding special status, caste census, revoking Agnipath but I don't think his approach to allies will change," he said.

"Till the time Modi is there as PM, I don't think their approach to Parliament is going to change. They will still try to bulldoze, suspend, disqualify, poach.But yes, as in football, while there were three defenders (earlier), our wall (of defenders) is now bigger and much more robust," Gogoi said during the interaction.

"That is our (opposition's) role and that is what the public expects from us, that is what the public voted (elected) us for, that is what we hope to do," Gogoi said.

He said the story of this election is that the people of India have taught a "lesson in humility" to Prime Minister Modi.

Gogoi, the son of late Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, said that with the numbers that the elections have thrown up and the prevailing circumstances, he does not think Modi has the ability to run a coalition government.

"Mr.Modi doesn't even take his cabinet into confidence.

When he did demonetisation, the finance minister did not know.

When he abrogated Article 370, his cabinet did not know.

When he brought Agnipath, his cabinet did not know.

So, someone who cannot even take his cabinet into confidence, how will he take the NDA alliance into confidence?" he said.

Gogoi said that for a coalition government to function smoothly, as it did under former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, one needs to have an open mind, an inclusive approach and the ability to listen and be flexible.

Asked about the BJP's argument countering the Congress' claim of emerging victorious in the polls, Gogoi said the BJP was not fighting alone but as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress fought as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and the result should be looked at from that perspective.

"What was the difference between the NDA alliance and the INDIA bloc, a mere 50 seats.

So, why are we talking about two parties, why are we ignoring the fate of the Shiv Sena and the NCP (NDA constituents) in Maharashtra. Why are we not talking about the NPP in Meghalaya," he said.

"We were fighting as INDIA. PM Modi might have forgotten that he was fighting as part of the NDA. Now he remembers them with fondness. Look at Uttar Pradesh, compare the margins of Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli and PM Modi in Varanasi," Gogoi said.

Citing the arrest of opposition parties' chief ministers and action by probe agencies in the run-up to the polls, the Jorhat MP said the country has fought back through polls.

He, however, added that the BJP is still unable to understand the lesson the people of the country wanted to teach the party.

Asked if he thinks the TDP and the JD(U) did not draw a hard bargain in portfolio allocation, the Congress leader said, "I think both Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar are among the most shrewd political leaders with extremely shrewd political minds. I don't think we should be so quick to judge them. Only time will tell what their true intentions are."

Pressed about Naidu and Kumar being the 'Trojan horse' in the NDA ranks, Gogoi said it was not right for him as a former deputy leader to comment on chief ministers, and that he has the utmost professional respect for them.

"As I have said, they both are politically sound and shrewd and I say shrewd in the gentlest of interpretation, it should not be taken in any other way.So only time will tell," he said.

"As I said, when they truly press with their demands and when they do counter the position of the BJP, does PM Modi have the large-heartedness to take them along and listen to them?" Gogoi said.

In the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls, the BJP with 240 seats fell short of a majority but the NDA secured the mandate with 293 seats.

The Congress bagged 99 seats while the INDIA bloc got 234 seats.

Following the polls, two Independents who won have also pledged support to the Congress, taking the INDIA bloc tally to 236.

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