The occasion of the release of a book to commemorate the political journey of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge this evening turned into an event where the need to revive the opposition alliance and the leader's role in bringing the parties opposed to the BJP together in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections was stressed.
The event was the launch of a felicitation volume in honour of Kharge on his completing 50 years in electoral politics in New Delhi. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi released the book 'Mallikarjun Kharge – Political Engagement with Compassion, Justice and Inclusive Development'.
Not just Kharge's party colleagues, but his compatriots in the INDIA alliance such as CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, DMK's T.R. Baalu and RJD's Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha were also present on the occasion.
It has not been lost on the opposition leaders that the INDIA group of parties has been dormant during the Assembly elections. The Congress, the principal opposition party, was preoccupied with the direct contests it was engaged in with the BJP and unwilling to share seats with alliance partners.
However, with the election campaign coming to an end, the book release function became symbolic of the Congress' attention turning towards national politics, and the leaders present at the event made use of the opportunity to turn the focus towards the INDIA initiative.
Addressing the gathering, Yechury referred to the talks with the Congress on sharing of seats not yielding a positive outcome, but said in the same breath that Kharge was honest in spelling out his party's compulsions on the issue.
“He was honest in telling us the reason why seat sharing could not take place. That is credibility. He had the courage to admit what he wanted to do and could not do,” he said.
Yechury said Kharge is one of the biggest opposition leaders and has the responsibility of ensuring the opposition works together in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.
Baalu spoke about the immense maturity with which Kharge has carried out his duties in public life. He said the Congress president had the most important role in keeping the opposition together.
RJD's Jha said Kharge, with his leadership, provided the opposition with strength in parliament. He conveyed the message sent by RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav underlining their commitment to the INDIA alliance.
Gandhi said Kharge stood tall as president of the Congress and led by example. She said he was helming the Congress at a crucial juncture. Describing him as a strong organisational leader, she said the veteran leader was best suited to lead the Congress's battle for India's soul.
Kharge, too, alluded to the fight with the BJP, saying the Constitution and parliamentary democracy are in danger and that he hoped that the various political parties would be able to sort out differences and come together boldly.
The book, a collection of write-ups by leaders cutting across party lines, has been edited by Sukhadeo Thorat and Chetan Shinde.