Paying rich tributes to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on the 17th anniversary of his death on Wednesday, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh again praised the Gandhi family.
He recalled Rajiv Gandhi's efforts at reconciliation with Sikh separatists in the aftermath of prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination, and said it would be rare to find a person "who will try to bring his mother's killers into the country's mainstream."
"And after such a person's death, the void has been filled by Soniaji and Rahul," he said at a programme organized here by the Uttar Pradesh Congress to mark Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary.
Singh said both Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi and their son Rahul were making all-out effort to ameliorate the conditions of the poor and empower the down-trodden, as was the late leader's dream.
Singh last month made thinly veiled criticism of the Gandhi family as well as the emergency rule imposed by Indira Gandhi. After he was cold-shouldered by Sonia Gandhi at a public function and criticised by fellow Congress leaders, Singh heaped praises on the family.
He credited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the new Other Backward Classes (OBCs) reservation policy for higher education and said: "The new reservation will ensure rights to the backward classes and at the same time will not curtail the benefits to those already availing it."
Later, when approached by reporters, Singh declined to comment on the issue of 'creamy layer', or the elite among the OBCs that are to be kept out of the ambit of the quota according to the Supreme Court verdict. He said the matter was sub judice.
He with state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi and several Congress leaders vowed to fight against "communal parties which are in power in different states".
Joshi criticised Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. "The Mayawati government is just not taking up any issue that concerns the poor and the needy," said Joshi.