Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that a formidable alliance of opposition parties can be stitched together to defeat the BJP and free India from the "reign of fear" in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Chidambaram, however, avoided directly answering a question on the leadership issue or who would be the prime ministerial candidate of the alliance, saying it is a premature question.
"Let us form the alliance and let the elections take place. All of you want to know the answer even before the script is written," he said.
The former finance minister said the most important issue on which all opposition parties agree to is that the saffron party should be defeated.
"On that point, there is a convergence of views in many states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, etc. That convergence will bring together opposition parties and alliances will be formed state-wise," Chidambaram told PTI in an interview here.
He said for the first time, "we are witnessing a sense of fear" among a large section of people in the country.
"The Dalits live in fear, the Muslims live in fear, the women live in fear, the press live in fear," he said.
"We are moving away from the accepted democratic rights and democratic positions. This is a dangerous trend for the country. We wanted freedom (from British rule) because we want to live without fear. And today, a vast section of the country lives in fear and this has to end," Chidambaram said.
Asked whether the Congress will replicate the Karnataka model, where despite being the largest party in the Congress-JD(S) alliance it gave away the CM's post to JD(S) to keep the BJP at bay, he said it is too early to comment on it.
"Karnataka was a state election. We talked about Karnataka after the election results were announced. Now, the major challenge is the Parliament election and eight months ahead of the polls, we can't talk about what will happen after election.
"There will be alliance in each state depending upon the context of the state... The alliance has to be state-specific. So I think a formidable alliance can be stitched together state-wise for the Parliament elections," he said.
On reports of certain opposition parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Trinamool Congress not being very comfortable with the Congress leading the front, Chidambaram said it is advisable to wait till the election and the alliance talks to begin.
Several opposition parties including the TMC and the TRS have expressed their reservation about working under the leadership of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, considered as a "junior politician".
Asked whether the TMC would be part of the Congress-led opposition alliance, as the Bengal Congress unit is not in favour of it, he said, "I am not competent to answer that question. But, I am sure when I say that all parties who are opposed to BJP and all who are keen to replace the BJP should come together and form the alliance, that's the position I have stated. Let's see what happens."
About the possibility of formation of such an alliance before the Lok Sabha polls, he said if one or two parties decide to stay away from pre-election alliance, "I am sure they can join the alliance post the election".Criticising the Centre on various issues ranging from incidents of lynching to anti-romeo squads, Chidambaram said that people have been either vegetarian or non-vegetarian for hundreds of years, but never ever were they lynched on the suspicion of keeping a particular meat in their house.
"What is happening is serious erosion of democracy, serious erosion of freedom. This has to be stopped in the next Lok Sabha election," he said.
The senior Congress leader said that the Narendra Modi government was trying to undermine the success in delivering a better economic growth during the UPA 1 and 2 regime.
"You can't hide the numbers. The numbers speak for themselves. This is desperation of the Modi government to project itself as better than the UPA government."They keep on boasting that in the last 60 years, nothing has happened, but our record is far better than the BJP's," he added.