A decision on the INDIA bloc’s prime ministerial candidate will be taken only after the results of the Lok Sabha elections are declared, said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, PTI reported on Wednesday.

“First we need to win the elections and then depending on what the alliance partners say there [will be] discussions,” Kharge told the news agency in an interview. “Congress party has never been shy about [it], first, we need to win elections.”

The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance is a coalition of Opposition parties that is taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the elections.

Kharge told PTI that with the Congress winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh, “things are looking positive and good”.

“Our guarantee schemes have proved that people want programmes and schemes that have benefits like reduction in prices,” he said. “These have caught the eye of the voter.”

The Congress president also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims that the National Democratic Alliance will win more than 400 seats in the general elections. He said this kind of “overconfidence and arrogance is not good for the country and democracy”.

“Luckily, he has not said ‘ab ki baar 600 par’ [this time, it will be above 600 seats],” said Kharge. “This egoistic propaganda, undermining the Opposition and portraying that everything is [about] me is unfortunate. Even leaders who have confidence about coming to power will not speak like this. He is already charting programmes for the next five years calling all secretaries.”

He cited the results of the 2004 general elections to say that the BJP at the time had touted Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be the most suitable prime minister.

“What happened then?” asked Kharge. “Congress-led government was formed under Manmohan Singh. He [Singh] emerged as a better prime minister. We saw the economy booming. Lot of policies and programmes were formed at the time and he was a better administrator.”

Kharge also claimed that the voters in the country “are clear” that Modi was “trying to suppress everyone”.

“If a level playing field is given, you will see the repeat of 2004 results,” said Kharge.

When asked about the Congress’ candidates for Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies, where the party enjoyed dominance for several decades, Kharge said the announcement would be made at an appropriate time.

“It is not good to open my cards,” he said. “In politics, it is important to have some surprises. We will discuss, we will deliberate and we will take feedback. There is a democratic process in the Congress party and in the due course we will take a call. It is not like BJP where Modi has the final say for everything.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who represented the Amethi constituency between 2004 and 2019, said on Wednesday that the decision on the candidate for the seat will be taken by the party’s Central Election Committee.

Addressing a joint press conference with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Gandhi said: “Whatever the CEC and Congress president will ask me to do, I will do it.”

On April 5, Gandhi had also said that the INDIA bloc will decide about its prime ministerial candidate only after the general elections, reported Hindustan Times.

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