With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar blaming Congress' preoccupation with assembly polls for the INDIA bloc's inability to build on the momentum it gained, the party on Thursday stressed the importance of the elections and asserted it was fighting them "seriously".
The Congress also asserted that the opposition INDIA bloc had been formed for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections at the national level and was not state specific.
At a CPI rally in Patna, Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) is part of the alliance, blamed the Congress' preoccupation with assembly polls in five states for the INDIA coalition's inability to build on the momentum it had gained in recent months.
Speaking in the presence of senior leaders such as CPI general secretary D Raja, the chief minister recalled that parties opposed to the current dispensation had come together to form the new coalition -- Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).
"But, of late, there has not been much progress on that front. The Congress party seems to be more interested in the five assembly polls. In the INDIA coalition, all of us had agreed to assign the Congress the leading role. But it appears they will respond and call the next meeting only after they are through with the ongoing elections," said Kumar, who had hosted the first meeting of opposition leaders in Patna in June which set the tone for the formation of the coalition.
Asked about Kumar's remarks, Bihar Congress chief Akhilesh Prasad Singh said, "It was a CPI event. I have heard his speech. The intention of his remarks is that the Modi government should be removed as soon as possible. But it will be removed only when the time comes and there are elections."
"The summary of his remarks was that the Congress is busy in state elections and then the Congress will call a meeting. Before also, at Sadaqat Asharam (Congress office in Patna), Lalu Prasad ji (RJD leader) had come and had said that the INDIA bloc's first rally will be in Patna's Gandhi Maidan," Singh said at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here.
The summary of the Bihar chief minister's remarks was that the parties that have come together should be more pro-active and jointly dislodge the Modi government, so there is nothing wrong in what he stated, he said.
"I believe that states make up the country, so the five states are important as well," Singh said.
Adding to Singh's remarks, Rajya Sabha MP and Congress Working Committee member Syed Naseer Hussain said the INDIA bloc is at the all-India level.
Talking about the Congress taking on others such as the BJP and the BRS in the upcoming state polls, Hussain said at all the places, "we are fighting the elections with full force and all the survey reports that have come have shown us in the lead and that we are going to form government".
"We are fighting the elections strongly and seriously. We also should keep in mind that the state elections are happening just six months before the 2024 polls, so they should be taken seriously," he said.
At the last meeting of the INDIA bloc in Mumbai, an action plan was prepared and a coordination committee meeting was held later, Hussain noted.
"That action plan stays and once the formalities of the state polls are over we will start implementing the action plan," he asserted.
Asked about Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's critical remarks against the Congress recently, Hussain said the party has no information if he had made any such remarks.
"On seat sharing, discussions were held in the Mumbai meeting but no specific discussion on any state was held. When discussions are held on seat sharing after the state polls, we will let you know," he said.
"...Our INDIA bloc is at the all-India level for 2024, state-specific alliance was not done. There is coordination with some parties such as in Telangana and Rajasthan, we have had an understanding in the past with the Left parties, talks are being still held with them. The INDIA alliance is mainly for 2024," he stressed.