INDIA Bloc Like 'Filtered Coffee'; Congress Comeback Cannot Be Ruled Out: Shatrughan Sinha – News18

Last Updated: March 23, 2024, 14:56 IST
Kolkata, India
Shatrughan Sinha has been renominated from the Asansol seat.
Senior TMC leader and MP Shatrughan Sinha has dubbed opposition bloc INDIA as “filtered coffee” which is gaining momentum ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and emphasised the importance of not discounting the Congress, citing its track record of comebacks in politics.
Lauding Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for conducting “krantikari (revolutionary) yatras” across the country, the Asansol MP, however, asserted that TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would be a “game-changer” after the results are announced.
In an interview with PTI, the actor-turned-politician termed the electoral bond as a “major scam and extortion racket” of the BJP and said the “seven-phase elections are a boon for the opposition parties to expose the saffron camp’s extortion and blackmail racket in the form of electoral bonds.”
“The BJP will be defeated in this election. If the NDA has the support of the CBI, ED, and Income Tax, INDIA has the support of the masses. Many think that INDIA doesn’t have partners, but the fact is people are its biggest ally. The opposition alliance is gaining momentum in various parts of the country,” he said.
He claimed that INDIA alliance is like “filtered coffee” with “solid leaders” such as Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Tejashwi Yadav of RJD, and many others being part of the bloc.
“Several important leaders across the country are part of the INDIA alliance, and that is why I call this filtered coffee. This filtered coffee would taste much better when other opposition leaders would also join it after the elections,” he said.
Asked about the reluctance of parties like AAP and TMC to have Congress leading the opposition bloc, Sinha remarked that the presence of the grand old party “is a must for any opposition alliance just like any other opposition party.”
“Congress is a national party and should not be ruled out. It has a history and track record of making comebacks. In 2019 also, it had the highest seat share among opposition parties,” he said.
Speaking about the INDIA alliance not gaining traction in states such as Punjab and Bengal despite AAP and TMC being part of the opposition front on the national level, Sinha said, “Ground-level alliances were not possible in some states as it would lead to the opposition space going to the BJP.”
“Maybe the official alliance is not on the ground, but leaders of INDIA alliance such as Mamata Banerjee will sweep the elections in Bengal,” he said. Sinha, however, noted that not being part of the opposition front in the states doesn’t mean they “will not come together after elections.”
“Those who are not in the INDIA bloc now or are fighting separately doesn’t mean they will not join the opposition front after the polls. After the elections, the opposition will come together to oust the BJP,” the TMC MP said.
Mocking the BJP’s assertion of securing over 370 seats independently and the NDA surpassing 400 seats, Sinha said, “Such claims reflect the frustration in the saffron party camp.”
“BJP can achieve this figure only through manipulation. If they indulge in horse-trading as it did to form a government in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, then they can manage something or else they won’t touch 150-175 seats,” he said.
The BJP had won 303 seats in the last Lok Sabha polls. Likening the electoral bond as icing on the cake for the opposition during the staggered poll campaign, he said, “Electoral bond is a big scam and an extortion racket of the BJP by using the CBI and the ED to extort money by threatening raids and arrests. The business in the name of donations is now out in the open.”
The BJP received the maximum funds through these bonds at Rs 6,986.5 crore since they were introduced in 2018, followed by West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress (Rs 1,397 crore), Congress (Rs 1,334 crore), and BRS (Rs 1,322 crore).
Asked about opposition parties including the TMC receiving funds through electoral bonds, he said, “You cannot compare the two, whether it is Congress, TMC, or any other opposition party, they have received money under the system but didn’t misuse central agencies.”
“I think this issue of electoral bonds is icing on the cake for the opposition as the seven-phase elections for nearly 2.5 months will give it an opportunity to expose the BJP in front of the masses on the issue,” he said.
The Supreme Court recently annulled the electoral bonds scheme for political funding. An electoral bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties as had been first pronounced by the finance minister in the Union Budget 2017-18. Sinha lauded Rahul Gandhi for conducting two yatras crisscrossing the entire length and breadth of the country.
“Rahul Gandhi is a competent leader. He is a tried and tested leader. But at the same time, I believe our party supremo will be the game-changer in terms of government formation post-elections. But who will be prime minister will be decided by the opposition parties after elections,” he said. Sinha had joined the BJP in the early 80s and served the saffron camp as its star campaigner during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L K Advani era.
The two-term BJP MP from Patna Sahib later walked out of the party over differences with the present leadership and joined the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Bollywood actor of the 1970s and 1980s switched over to the TMC in 2022. He successfully fought the by-election from Asansol, an industrial town in West Bengal.
Sinha, who has been renominated for the second time from the Asansol seat, exuded confidence in retaining the seat by a larger margin than the 2022 bypoll.


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