Launching a veiled attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday stressed that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were vital to uphold secularism and unity.
"Some people want a change. A change for what? They (the opposition) want to change the values we cherished over the last six and a half decades," she said in Kochi, addressing a special convention of the party.
"The choice is very clear... to vote for a party which strives for a united India or vote for one which is trying to divide our country...The idea of secular India is under threat by those who want to change the very soul and heart of the country," she added, without naming any political party.
Recently, addressing a public meeting in Karnataka, Gandhi had accused the BJP of "sowing the seeds of poison (zeher ki kheti)" by practising divisive politics. Her barb triggered a sharp response from the BJP, which, in turn, blamed the Congress for its "divide and rule" tactic.
Kick-starting the party's poll campaign in Kerala around a week after BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi's visit to the state, Gandhi asked Congress workers to rise above factionalism and gear up for the elections.
"I have no group. We are all one group. We are all Congressmen... We will fight the coming polls unitedly and win."
Gandhi's remark comes against the backdrop of speculations that Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy was not happy with the selection of VM Sudheeran as the new Kerala Congress president.
Gandhi also directed party workers to reach out to the people and highlight various welfare schemes of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.
Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and in the 2009 polls, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) won 16 and the principal opposition party (CPI-M)-led Left Democratic Front won four. The BJP is yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly.
Taking on the CPI-M for clinging to an "irrelevant" ideology and pursuing violent means to secure its goals, Gandhi questioned what the principal opposition party had done in the state.
"All that they have done is to oppose all that the UPA government does and the choice before the people of Kerala is to vote for a party which is strong on its ideologies."
Earlier, launching a government-civil society initiative for safety and security of women in the state, Gandhi said she deeply regretted that the Women's Reservation Bill could not be passed by Parliament for lack of consensus. She added her party would continue its efforts for passing of the legislation.
With PTI and IANS inputs