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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Sonia Gandhi asks cadre to step up protests on key issues

Gandhi, 72, took over as the interim president of the Congress on August 10 after Rahul Gandhi turned down repeated pleas from party colleagues to take back his resignation offered in the wake of the party’s crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2019 00:33 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh during a high-level party meeting at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh during a high-level party meeting at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.(HT image)
         

New Delhi: Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, on Thursday asked party leaders and workers to hit the streets with a concrete agenda for agitation on social and economic issues affecting the people, asserting that “it is not enough to be active and aggressive” on social media alone.

Gandhi also had a word of advice for the chief ministers of the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh and the Union Territory of Puducherry: stand out as examples of sensitive and responsive governance, and accountable and transparent administration, saying that the Congress has a special responsibility in these states. The Congress is in power in these states and the Union Territory.

“We must be seen to be fulfilling our manifesto commitments. If not, we will lose people’s support with obvious consequences,” she said, addressing a meeting of party office bearers in Delhi.

Gandhi, 72, took over as the interim president of the Congress on August 10 after Rahul Gandhi turned down repeated pleas from party colleagues to take back his resignation offered in the wake of the party’s crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress managed to win just 52 of the 543 seats, as a result of which it once again could not claim the post of the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. A party should have one-tenth of the total strength of the House to do that.

“The country is looking to us to confront and combat the forces that appropriate Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Dr BR Ambedkar and misrepresent their true message for their nefarious ends. We must stand up fearlessly to fight on the streets, fight in villages, towns and cities,” Gandhi said.

“We must have a concrete agitational agenda on issues of pressing concern to the people, whether economic or social. It is not enough to be active and aggressive on the social media even though that, too, is needed and we need to do better. Far more important is to go to the people directly,” she added.

The party responded to her call with a plan to organise an agitation across the country. Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation, KC Venugopal, told reporters after the meeting that a “massive” nationwide agitation on economic slowdown will be held between October 15 and 25.

But prior to it, the party will hold state-level conventions on economic slowdown across the country between September 20 and 30, he said.

Apart from Gandhi and former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the meeting was attended by Congress general secretaries in-charge of states, chief ministers of party-ruled states, state unit presidents and legislature party leaders.

Former Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, was not present in the meeting since he does not occupy any organisational post.

“Our resolve and resilience are under severe test. We cannot afford to let our self-confidence and morale falter,” Gandhi said, while attacking those who have deserted the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties.

“This is the time when it will become clear, as to who are those steadfastly devoted to the Congress as an ideology (as a vehicle), for strengthening the nation, and those who look to the Congress only as an opportunity for self-advancement. Some of our party colleagues have left us in recent times. All I can say is that they have revealed their opportunistic character.”

Gandhi also expressed concern over the “grim” economic situation in the country and accused the BJP government of misusing its mandate in the “most dangerous” fashion.

“We are meeting at a time when there is a prolonged economic slump, when job losses are mounting by the day, when the confidence of the investors is getting shakier by the day, when the government appears more and more clueless and insensitive by the day,” she said.

The Congress president also alleged that the Modi government was indulging the vendetta politics without taking the names for party leaders, P Chidambaram and DK Shivakumar, who are currently in jail battling corruption charges.

“We are also meeting at a time when vendetta politics is at its peak and when those who speak out against the ruling establishment are being threatened and intimidated. Each and every institution is being diabolically subverted. Voices of dissent are being silenced,” she said.

“Democracy has never been at greater peril than it is now…. The mandate of 2019 is now being misused and abused in a most dangerous fashion.”

Gandhi also admitted that the party is facing challenging situation in the poll bound states of Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana. “We are soon going to have elections in three states. The situation is challenging and it is only if we keep party interests, and nothing other than party interests uppermost in our minds, that we will regain our lost position,” she said.

Addressing the meeting, the former Prime Minister claimed that the country was in the midst of a “dangerously protracted” slowdown and accused the government of being “complacent enough not to realise the grave” situation.

“Economy is going from bad to worse and government is not realising it. There is an atmosphere of gloom in stock markets,” he said.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 23:41 IST