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Sonia Gandhi says no leader is above the Congress

delhi Updated: Nov 17, 2007 15:32 IST

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a blistering attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and also warned her own colleagues that none of them was above the party.

Addressing the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session in New Delhi, Gandhi did some plain speaking before some 3,000 delegates from all over the country amid persisting speculation that general elections due in 2009 could be advanced.

"I want to clarify that the party is supreme and there is no leader or faction above the party," she said, speaking partly in English and partly in Hindi.

Gandhi said that while the Congress was a democratic party and there was room in it for free and frank exchanges of views, "one has to be careful".

"Unless the party comes out with a stand on an issue, party leaders are not expected to air their personal opinions. And when the party expresses its stand, no other opinion can be accepted from anyone in the party."

Gandhi also said that many in the Congress have been given a chance to be ministers. "Those who are given these chances should remember that they have been given a great responsibility and there are others who are capable of holding these posts."

She urged ministers to regularly go to party offices and be in touch with party workers, and also interact with people in rural areas. "Those who are in positions should remember that they hold these positions only because of the party."

In the same speech, Sonia Gandhi lashed out at the BJP, stating that Mahatma Gandhi's ideas and Gandhian institutions were under threat in the country.

In a reference to Gujarat that goes to the polls in December, she said: "There are sustained assaults (on Mahatma Gandhi) in the state of his birth itself and in other BJP-ruled states. Elsewhere, his yeomen contribution to social emancipation and political empowerment of the weaker sections of the society are being questioned."

She accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's achievements were all the more creditable "given the stubbornly uncooperative attitude of the BJP in Parliament. No words are strong enough to condemn the BJP's attack on our prime minister and our party.

"We too were in the opposition but we never acted beyond reasonable limits and always strived to maintain the dignity and decorum of Parliament. On matters of national interest we always extended our hand of support (to the government)."

"Unlike the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance), our government has again and again offered the opportunity for debate and discussion on issues of public importance. Nevertheless, the BJP and its allies continue to be obstructive."