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Sonia Gandhi calls for alliance to defeat BJP in 2019, says must restore India to path of democracy, tolerance

At the Congress parliamentary party meet, Sonia Gandhi stressed the need to build a “positive and credible narrative for ourselves” and highlight the “abject failures” of the NDA government.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2018 08:25 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sonia Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi,Congress Parliamentary Party
File photo of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressing a rally in New Delhi. Gandhi on Thursday hailed the party’s performance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, saying winds of change are here, and told party workers to be ready for early polls.(HT)

Congress parliamentary party (CPP) chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday called for a broad-based alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha election to ensure the BJP was defeated and “India restored to a democratic, inclusive, secular, tolerant and economically progressive” path.

Addressing a CPP meeting, Gandhi said change is coming as evident in her party’s performance in Gujarat and the recent by-elections in Rajasthan.

“I will work with the Congress president and other colleagues in discussions with like-minded parties to ensure that in the next election the BJP is defeated and India is restored to a democratic, inclusive, secular, tolerant and economically progressive path,” she said, also putting to rest buzz about her retirement.

Her remarks came days after she appealed to opposition parties to build a consensus at the national level and bury differences to put up a united front.

Political analysts are of the view that there is a growing realisation within the opposition parties that the BJP will regain power in 2019 if they don’t form a grand alliance.

“This is the need of the hour. The Congress realises it and regional parties also know this, but for it (ti happen) they have to keep their egos aside. It is also a reality that if they don’t come together, the BJP will come back to power,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Gandhi hailed the party’s recent performance and urged party leaders and workers to be ready for an early LS election. “We performed very creditably under tough circumstances in Gujarat and recent by-election results in Rajasthan were huge,” she said. “This shows winds of change are coming. I am sure Karnataka, too, will underline resurgence of Congress.”

In its best performance in over 20 years in the state, the Congress and allies won 80 of the 182 seats in the Gujarat, the home state of PM Narendra Modi. The Congress also recently won two Lok Sabha constituencies and one assembly seat in BJP-ruled Rajasthan, which is due for election later this year.

Gandhi stressed the need for building a “positive and credible narrative” on issues of public concern and highlighting the “abject failures” of the Modi government. “We have to be in a state of readiness for the national elections which are due in slightly over a year — and might well be called earlier as they were in 2004,” she said. The Prime Minister and other leaders of the NDA government have been talking of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and states. The EC has also asserted that it will be “logistically equipped” by September 2018 to hold simultaneous polls. The Congress and other opposition parties have maintained that the idea is not feasible.

Gandhi’s reference to 2004 is significant because the BJP-led NDA which was in power then called for early elections, and suffered a surprising defeat.

The 2014 election was a severe setback for the Congress, but it was an aberration, Gandhi said, adding that people belonging to all sections were getting disillusioned with the Modi government. “It is for us to channel this discontent into support. We have demonstrated our resilience before and we are now called upon to do so again,” she said.

Gandhi accused the government of failing to deliver. The Modi government indulged in “maximum publicity, minimum government” and “maximum marketing and minimum delivery”, she said, playing on one of the NDA’s own slogans (“Maximum governance, minimum government”).

Gandhi alleged that institutions such as Parliament, judiciary, media and civil society had faced systematic assault after the BJP came to power in 2014.

“Investigative agencies have been let loose against political opponents. An all-pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation has been created...,” she alleged.

The former Congress chief said minorities, Dalits and women were facing increased violence and were feeling unsafe.

“In many cases this violence, especially against minorities and Dalits is not sporadic or random, but orchestrated to polarise our society for narrow political gains,” she said.

It was done in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and “we will no doubt see it again in Karnataka”, she said. “Such polarisation is criminal in a democracy yet those in power look the other way.”

The state is due for elections around the middle of this year.

Gandhi also criticised the government over the agrarian crisis, unemployment and a slump in economy.

Her talk to the CPP?came a day after Modi’s speech at the Parliament in which he lashed out at the Congress.

“If this government is to be believed, India had accomplished nothing before May 2014,” she said, referring to that speech.

“The arrogance and dishonesty of this tells us that the Modi government is out of touch with reality, and lives by its own propaganda and lies. We need no further evidence of this than the Prime Minister’s speech,” she said.

First Published: Feb 08, 2018 12:02 IST