With party candidates in tow, Congress president Sonia Gandhi took the centrestage in the contest for the Capital at Delhi’s Ajmal Khan Park on Sunday to raise the morale of the party workers that had been hit by an unprecedented defeat in the December 2013 assembly elections.
Over 30 years ago, her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, had addressed a similar gathering in the same park in 1979 and staged a comeback to power the next year.
In the last elections, the Congress had made a clean sweep in Delhi, winning all seven Lok Sabha seats. But the odds are stacked heavily against the party this time. Sonia sought to beat the anti-incumbency with the achievements of the UPA in the past 10 years.
She sought votes for the bill to give legal rights to street vendors, the sixth pay commission and setting up of the 7th pay commission for the government employees -- who form 35% of the electorate in the New Delhi constituency, where the park is situated. The seat is represented by former Union minister Ajay Maken.
She also mentioned the “one rank one pension” scheme for defence employees.
“In the last 10 years, the UPA government under Manmohan Singh did revolutionary work. They launched several major works and programmes. I don’t want to repeat, you all know about it,” Gandhi told a packed park that is named after Hakeem Ajmal Khan -- a close aide of Mahatma Gandhi and a former Congress president.
Party insiders feel that the choice of location for Sonia’s rally may help woo Muslims -- who supported the party despite a strong wave against it in the assembly elections. However, the community has been showing signs of gravitating towards the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party that upstaged Congress from Delhi.
Three Delhi Congress leaders - Delhi chief Arvinder Singh, legislature party leader Haroon Yusuf and Delhi Congress spokesperson Mukesh Sharma supervised the mobilisation of crowd.
“Congress does not have a single MLA from New Delhi parliamentary area. The park itself is located in the middle of a trade centre, which is considered BJP’s vote bank. It was a big risk organising a rally there,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity.