Making a scathing attack on the BJP, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has warned that the country faced the biggest threat from communal forces and their ideology even as the AICC resolution called upon “like-minded political and social forces to come together at this critical juncture”.
Apparently referring to the recent drubbing in the Assembly polls, she said there might be some shortcomings in meeting the hopes and expectations of the common people and requested all to be a little soft towards her party in view of the slew of programmes and policies implemented by the UPA government.
The resolution’s phraseology was almost similar to the one adopted by the Congress at the Shimla Conclave in 2003 when the party shed its reservation to coalition politics. Congress had then called for unity of secular forces.
Asking the party workers not to lose heart after the recent drubbing in assembly elections, Gandhi said that victory and defeat are inescapable in politics and Congress always has the resilience to bounce back by fighting the challenges strongly.
“Congress has faced many difficult times in the past, much tougher than today, but we have never lost heart,” she said signalling that the party was battle ready for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Describing secularism as the biggest identity of the country, Gandhi hit out at the BJP, without taking its name, saying the policy of the main opposition party is of dividing society on communal lines, imposing uniformity in the name of unity.
“The biggest danger to the country’s social fabric is from the communal forces and their ideologies. Congress has always worked to unite people and has never compromised with communalism. Secularism means equal faith in all religions (sarva dharma sambhava). It is not an electoral compulsion for us. This is something which we deeply believe in,” she said in New Delhi on Friday.
Striking a similar note, the omnibus resolution moved by senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and seconded by P Chidambaram for consideration at the AICC meet said, “the recent political setbacks are an important wake up call” underlining the need to enhance the connect with people and work harder.
“The next elections will see a sharpening contrast between competing ideologies from the past and clashing vision of the future. It will be a battle between forces of age old secularism and others. It will be a battle for India as we cherish,” she said.
Seeking to contrast it with the politics of BJP, she said their way of functioning is to divide society on communal lines and provoke violence.
“As Congressmen, we have always fought this ideology.”
“The 2014 Lok Sabha elections is a contest between opposing ideologies-one that seeks to divide and other than seeks to unite India. One a polarising ideology that militates against the core values which define Indian nationhood and its constitutional democracy and the other a liberal secular democratic ideology represented by Indian National Congress,” the resolution said.
Maintaining that Congress will continue to champion this “liberal secular democratic vision of India,” the resolution said the party “seeks the support of all like-minded political and social forces to come together in this pursuit at this critical juncture”.
A highlight of the proceedings was the clamour for declaring Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the part responding to which Sonia Gandhi said that the decision taken by the Congress Working Committee on Thursday was final.
The CWC on Thursday decided that Rahul Gandhi will lead the campaign in the Lok Sabha polls, refraining from specifically naming him the PM candidate.
“This meeting of the AICC declares that the Congress Partys 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” the resolution, which was approved by an extended meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Thursday, said.
As the clamour continued, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi intervened seeking to pacify the agitated party workers dropping broad indications that it is Rahul Gandhi who will be Prime Minister if the Congress came to power.
“Is there any name other than Rahul Gandhi? Is there any alternative to Rahul Gandhi? If it is not so why dont you understand?”
The Congress Vice President too tried to pacify workers saying he would explain to them his position on the issue later in the day.
Detailing the work done by the Congress-led coalition at the Centre, Sonia asked whether any other government had done so much in the past.
Hailing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said he has led the coalition for the past ten years with dignity despite all difficulties and obstructions as well as irresponsible attitude of the opposition and remained firm on his objectives.
At the outset, Gandhi said, “We meet today to send a clear signal that the Congress is ready and prepared for the battle ahead”.
Noting that the AICC is meeting at a time when the party is celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi said it was he who had said soon after independence that confronting danger and facing adversity is the Congress way.
“That message should resonate more loudly now than ever before”.
Turning to the issue of corruption, Gandhi said crucial bills, which are powerful instruments in the country’s fight against corruption, are pending in Parliament.
“We will do our utmost to get them through when Parliament reconvenes next month,” she said, appealing to all parties to rise above political considerations and pass these bills.
Noting that the RTI Act was the single most important reason why citizens feel empowered to fight corruption, she said that Congress is responsible for the historic Act.
On the issue of disparities, she said that while growth is essential and must be sustained, it alone cannot address the problems arising out of continuing disparities.
“Tackling these is not just a matter of social justice but more importantly an existential necessity and a moral imperative,” she said.
“If the basic needs of large sections of society are not met in tangible measure, the fabric of society will be stretched and torn,” she warned.
The party’s focus on bringing communal secular discourse in the elections was evident with the AICC resolution dwelling in detail on the issue.
“There is a serious challenge faced by the country today from communal and divisive forces. This threatens to rupture the very basic fabric of our nation’s unity and social cohesion.
“Painstaking efforts of several generations of Indians have ensured that our civilisational country retains its diverse and pluralistic character,” the resolution said affirming the Congress’ role as a “flag bearer for safeguarding and nurturing the secular ethos of India”.
It said Congress will continue to fearlessly play this role. The party said that it stands fully prepared to face the political challenges ahead.
“It will go to the people in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the basis of its core values of secularism, social justice and inclusive growth, the performance of Congress-led UPA government on various fronts and a commitment to deliver transparent, participative and accountable governance for all Indians for the next five year,” the party said in the resolution on Friday.