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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Rajiv never used power to create fear, says Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi’s comments are the first since she took over as the party’s president earlier this month. It was a post she stepped down from in December 2017. Her son Rahul Gandhi took over but he resigned as president after the party’s poor showing in this year’s elections.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2019 01:27 IST
Amrita Madhukalya
Amrita Madhukalya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi addresses on the occasion of celebrations of 75th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday.
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi addresses on the occasion of celebrations of 75th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday.(Photo: ANI)
         

Former Prime Minister and Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi won a massive mandate in 1984 but did not use it to “create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation or to destroy the freedom of institutions, to crush disagreements...” Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Thursday, taking an obvious swipe at the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government.

Speaking at a function to commemorate the 75th birth anniversary of her husband, she acknowledged the significant challenges facing her party but added that it needs to continue on its path. The Congress won just 52 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha in this summer’s parliamentary election, doing almost as badly as it did in 2014 when it won 44. In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 seats compared to the 282 it did in 2014. In 1984, the Congress won over 400 seats.

Sonia Gandhi’s comments are the first since she took over as the party’s president earlier this month. It was a post she stepped down from in December 2017. Her son Rahul Gandhi took over but he resigned as president after the party’s poor showing in this year’s elections.

Sonia Gandhi suggested that the challenge facing her party and the country are more than just electoral. “Ups and downs are inevitable, but we must continue our ideological struggle against the forces of divisiveness, forces that are out the change the nature of our society, the very idea of India enshrined in our constitution.” This was another apparent reference to the BJP, which, the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi have repeatedly claimed, is changing the very idea of India.

Gandhi’s speech close on the heels of the dramatic arrest of former finance and home minister, and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in a corruption case, which the Congress says has no basis and is motivated by political vendetta.

Gandhi also said that there was a time when, despite being the largest political party, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi did not form a government because his values did not allow him to.

“I want to tell the generation of today that despite being the largest political party, Rajiv ji did not stake claim to form the government. This is because his inner moral strength, his generosity and honesty did not allow him to do so. Today, no one can do it like Rajiv ji did,” said Sonia Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congess chief ministers, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh and Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan were among those present at the event.

The Congress chief said that it was in Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure that the power of science and technology was used to strengthen the country, and peace came to troubled spots of the country, such as Punjab, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Darjeeling Hills, keeping aside the interests of the party.

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in-charge of the programme, and the Rajiv75 team included senior Congress leaders KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, and Jitendra Singh . The Congress’ nex-gen leaders such as Meenakshi Natarajan, Gaurav Gogoi, Amarinder Singh Raja, and Krishna Byre Gowda spoke about the life of Rajiv Gandhi.