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‘PM taking us back to medieval times’: Rahul Gandhi targets Modi govt in first speech as Congress president

Rahul Gandhi takes over as the Congress president at a time when the party is facing a stiff challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2017 15:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi Congress president,Indian Nation Congress
Newly elected Congress president Rahul Gandhi gestures while speaking at a ceremony at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Saturday.(AFP)

The Congress will defend the voice of every single Indian and fight politics that “crushes people”, said Rahul Gandhi on Saturday after taking over as party president. (LIVE UPDATES)

Gandhi, 47, in a brief speech talked about brotherhood and harmony and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of “setting the nation on fire”.

“The Congress took India to the 21st century, but the PM today is taking us back to the medieval times. We are now being compelled to imagine that businesses can be built without harmony; that only one man himself is the voice of reason; and that expertise, experience and knowledge can be cast aside for personal glory,” he said at 24 Akbar Road, the party’s headquarters in Delhi.

“You have an example in front of you. Once fire breaks out it is difficult to douse it. That is what we are telling the people of BJP, that if you set the nation on fire it will be difficult to control. Today, the BJP has spread the fire of violence across the country,” he said, continuing with his tirade against the ruling party.

Gandhi said his aim is to make Congress a “grand old young party”.

“We, the Congress, have always fought for our brothers and sisters. We consider the BJP our brothers and sisters even though we don’t agree with them. They want a ‘Congress-free’ India--we do not fight hate with hate.”

Gandhi, who had been the Congress vice-president for about five years, took the baton from his mother Sonia on Saturday, two days before the election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh where exit polls predict the BJP’s win.

The process of his election as the new Congress chief was completed after Mullapally Ramachandran, president of the party’s Central Election Authority, handed over a certificate to him.

Gandhi, who accepted the position of the Congress president with “deepest humility”, faces tough task: he has to reinvigorate the 131-year-old party and infuse mew momentum ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“Rahul ji, we depend upon you to transform and sustain politics of hope,” former prime minister Manmohan Singh said at the event, adding the Gandhi scion “brings in a new sense of dedication and commitment, a new sense of leadership with courage and humility”.

In a veiled dig at the ruling BJP, he said Rahul’s appointment came at a time when “politics of fear” was taking over the “politics of hope” in India.

Sonia, 71, said in her message that Congress activists and leaders “won’t bow down”. “Our struggle is for the country and we will continue fighting for it. We won’t give it up,” she said.

“Rahul is my son. So I do not think to praise him is appropriate for me. But I would say that since childhood he had to bear the brunt of violence. After joining politics he had to face blatant personal attacks that have made him a stronger person.”

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 12:57 IST