Terming the 2014 Lok Sabha elections a “sharpening contest between conflicting ideologies”, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday said the party would fight it on UPA’s twin planks of pro-people schemes and secular values.
Flagging communalism as the “biggest threat” to the nation, Gandhi launched an attack against the BJP while inaugurating the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in New Delhi on Friday.
“What is the path of our principal opponent? They want to divide the society on communal lines, create fanaticism, violence and tension. They impose uniformity in the name of unity and hurl false allegations against our leaders. We have never compromised with such communal ideologies and always fought them," she said without naming the BJP.
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In her speech — delivered in a mix of Hindi and English — Gandhi highlighted several welfare schemes of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. “Is there any other government who has done so much work? The answer is no."
The Congress president admitted “painfully widespread disparities” prevailed in spite of rapid growth, but carefully avoided any mention of price rise, a major concern for millions of Indians.
“In spite of impressive economic growth for which we can justifiably take credit, the fact is that disparities are still painfully widespread. Growth is essential and must be sustained. But rapid growth alone cannot address the problems arising out of continuing disparities,” she said.
While her party is facing anti-incumbency threat after 10 years in power and has been at the receiving end of civil society movements, Gandhi emphasised that all major changes in national polity has taken place only on the Congress’ initiatives.
“The Congress has laid the foundation of such a democracy which represents everyone.”
A day after deciding that party-vice president Rahul Gandhi will lead the poll campaign, the Congress president announced that the party was ready for an election of “conflicting and clashing” ideologies.
“It will be a sharpening contest between conflicting ideologies, between competing interpretations of the past and clashing visions of the future. It will be a battle for India as conceived by our founding fathers, a battle for age-old secular traditions,” she said.
To boost the morale of party workers after suffering humiliating defeat in the recent assembly elections, Sonia said the organisation had faced difficult times in the past which was “much tougher than today’s”.
Gandhi also assured the party would do its utmost to get crucial anti-corruption bills passed in the ensuing Parliament session. “I appeal to all political parties to rise above political considerations and pass these bills.”
‘Hear the voice of youth in this time of turbulence’
The Congress president appealed to the people to go “a little soft” on her party. She also reminded her party that the new generation wanted its voice to be heard.
Her observation came in the backdrop of the stupendous rise of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which routed the Congress from Delhi and now threatens to spoil its party in other states.
“The country is going through turbulent times as a result of a fast-paced social and economic change. When a new generation, brimming with expectation and hope, wants its voice to be heard, it is justified,” Gandhi said in her speech that otherwise was targeted the BJP’s “communal politics”.
The UPA chairperson went on to admit that on several occasions “there have been some shortcomings in fulfilling the aspirations and ambitions of people.” “This is the reason, I, on behalf of the great organization, request all to be a little soft on us,” she said.
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