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Combative Rahul ignites Cong, says will fight to win

A combative and articulate Rahul Gandhi on Friday outlined the Congress’ strategy to be back in the hunt for a third term in office, saying the Lok Sabha elections in May were tough and “unlike all others so far” but not unwinnable.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2014 11:58 IST
Varghese K George & Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Varghese K George & Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Congress’ strategy,lok sabha polls

A combative and articulate Rahul Gandhi on Friday outlined the Congress’ strategy to be back in the hunt for a third term in office, saying the Lok Sabha elections in May were tough and “unlike all others so far” but not unwinnable.

In a spirited 45-minute speech before 4,000 cheering delegates at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session at Talkatora stadium, the 43-year-old also made it abundantly clear that he would be prime minister in the event of such a victory — drawing smiles from mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was watching from a make-shift office.

The session was an occasion to complete the process of Rahul’s takeover of the party, which began with his anointment as party vice-president exactly a year ago in Jaipur. In stark contrast with his speech then, when he’d said “power is poison”, Rahul tore into the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) without naming either, offered a sharply defined programme for the party and its “government in the next five years”.

Read: Congress pits the ‘Idea of India’ against Modi

Stepping fully into his role as campaign leader, he exhorted the audience: “We will go into this battle as warriors with our heads held high. We will not look back… go into this battle knowing who we are and what we stand for. We will fight with all we have within us. We will not rest… not lose courage and… not stop till the battle is won.”

Trounced in recent assembly polls and br uised by the relentless onslaught of the BJP and AAP, defeat was writ large on the delegates’ faces when they assembled, but Rahul managed to lift their morale while also reminding them of the tough fight ahead.

“Rahul has diagnosed the disease and given the appropriate treatment,” said Mohammad Shamim Akhtar, AICC member from Bihar.

Earlier, as Sonia announced that the decision on not naming Rahul PM candidate was final and an impatient audience still voiced their demand, Rahul said, “I will tell you what you want to hear. I will say that in my own way.”

At 4pm sharp, he began his speech: “I am your soldier and ready to do anything you want me to do. We will fight and win the elections. In a democratic party like ours, the Congress PM will be elected by MPs.”

Talking about his plans— 50% of Congress chief ministers should be women and half of the room at the next AICC session should also be filled with women — Rahul said 70 million people who have come out of poverty in the 10 years of UPA rule but are vulnerable of falling back into poverty will be the party’s priority.

“In the next five years, we will give them a roof over their heads, education for their children.”

Read: Rahul Gandhi justifies Cong decision of not naming PM nominee

In veiled attacks on the BJP and AAP, he said the opposition was good at peddling fake products: “They do excellent marketing. They have shine, glamour, song, dance and everything. They are good at selling combs to the bald. Some new people have come and started giving haircut to the bald.”

In a dig at BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he said those calling for a “Congress mukt Bharat” are ignorant of India’s history. “It’s a dream that will never be realized.

Congress is an idea, not a party. It is a 3,000-year-old idea that cannot be erased and one who made an attempt at it got destroyed in the process. We are the trustees of this idea which is greater than anyone… you, me, the Congress president, prime minister and every single one of us.”

Contrasting his party with the BJP, he said others, when weakened, incite riots while the Congress unites and believes in brotherhood, love and respect for each other.

Read: Rahul chants disrupt Sonia’s speech at AICC meet

Read: Confident Congress will win 2014 polls, says PM

Full text of Rahul Gandhi’s Speech at AICC Session at the Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi

It is an honour for me to speak to you. Last year, at a similar gathering of colleagues and friends, I spoke about the optimism and energy that has built this great nation. The same energy that is unleashing an unstoppable democratic upsurge in our country today.

For the last ten years, we have had the privilege of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singhji’s leadership. This unbroken decade of stability has created vast new economic opportunities for our youth and has brought about massive social and political change.

It is clear that we the Congress have made this democratic upsurge possible. We have served the country by enhancing and deepening the foundations of our democracy.

Let’s look at the big steps that we took to increase your power, the people’s power, in India. The single biggest attack on the closed system of governance is the RTI. Information is power. We restored this power to you where it rightfully belongs. The RTI has forever altered the politics of this country. We enacted this revolutionary law to hand you power, knowing fully well that it would place our own government under severe scrutiny.

We have also created the right to identity so that your money reaches you directly. It is the largest anti corruption platform that anyone has ever built. It will enable people to get their benefits and entitlements without paying a bribe.

Secondly, we constructed and reinforced the third pillar of government – Panchayati Raj. This has allowed millions of you to have access to our political system and has exponentially increased democracy in our country. What is NREGA and the Right to Food, if it is not handing you power? Decisions that were once in the hand of a few government officials are today firmly in the hands of all our people.

The third step is the advancement of technology, the bedrock of which was set up by the Congress.

What the Congress party has enabled over the last ten years is an unmatched transfer of power to our people.

The answer to India's problems lies in pushing this revolutionary democratisation further. There are MPs and MLAs here among us - your job is law making. While the work that you do on the ground is very important, we need to bring your voice back into the law making process. It is you who truly represent the people of India, yet what power do you have in the system today?

We need to bring the voice of elected Local Self Government representatives into the governance of the country. There are some Pradhans in this audience and lakhs across the nation. I ask you: what power do you have to shape this country? Democracy is not rule by dictate. It is not rule by one man. It is rule through empowered elected representatives.

We have to empower all of you and bring you back into law making so that the voice of the MP counts in parliament, so that the voice of the MLA resounds in the legislature, so the voice of the Pradhan truly counts in the village. But the most important person is our worker. Before we can empower MPs, MLAs and Pradhans we have to begin by empowering millions of our dedicated workers on the ground.

You should be able to enter the political system effortlessly and change your future. Instead you struggle. A disempowering system holds you back.

Today we live in a world where packaging and selling politics seems to replace the essence of real issues and real people. But lets be honest with each other. This is not just another turn in the history of India, another election to be fought, won or lost. This is a turning point in our nations’ journey. Nobody is in the mood to accept less than their full and complete right. No-one is willing to compromise anymore. They want individual choice. They want participation. They want a Fair Deal and they deserve it. Either we wake up to their aspirations, or we have no business to claim that we represent them. The change that is taking place around us is unstoppable.

The imperative before us, is not whether to change, but when and how to change.

What does this mean for us as a political party?

It means responding to the immense demand for political and governmental reform in the revolutionary and dynamic way that only the Congress Party is capable of doing.

It means that unlike others, we do not respond by complaining about all that is wrong without articulating how it will be corrected.

We do not respond by proposing oversimplified non-solutions.

We do not respond by subverting democratic institutions and blocking Parliament session after session, year after year.

Nor do we respond by turning people against each other and lighting the fires of communal hatred.

No, we do not respond by proposing either that the structures of democracy be handed to one single person or that they be viciously destroyed.

The Congress Party responds through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. We respond from the soul of the values that built this great nation. It is interesting to see that the response of the opposition has been to move in exactly the opposite direction.

People demand honest and efficient governance. We respond by getting the Lokpal Act passed. We respond by placing another 6 bills in Parliament that if implemented in their spirit, will ensure not only that dishonesty is punished but also that honest officers are protected.

People demand higher incomes and greater prosperity. We respond by enforcing a minimum wage and giving them the highest growth rate in India’s history.

It’s easy to pretend that all this is just a matter of passing orders and directives but it isn’t. It takes time. It takes sustained commitment. Real change is structural and for that, we need to work continuously through legislation, reform and sustained political effort.

पार्टी की ताकत और उसके सबसे जरूरी निर्णय लेने का अधिकार हमारे कार्यकर्ताओं और देश के आम लोगों के हाथ में होना चाहिये। हमने लगातार कई बडे़ सुधार किये हैं। अपने युवा और छात्र संगठनों में लाखों युवाओं को जोड़ा है। चुनावी Process से उन्हें पार्टी पदों पर नियुक्त किया है। हम एक Pilot Project चला रहें हैं, जिसमें हमारी पार्टी के कुछ लोकसभा प्रत्याशीयों को चुनने के लिये चुनाव होंगे। हमने कई युवा लोगों को विभिन्न राज्यों मे जिम्मेदारी दी है और हम ज्यादा से ज्यादा युवाओं को पार्टी में जिम्मेदारी के पदों पर नियुक्त करेंगें।

चुनावी घोषणापत्र बनाने के Process को हमने आम लोगों के लिये खोल दिया है। मैं कह सकता हूँ कि कांग्रेस पार्टी का घोषणापत्र बनाने में लाखों लोगों की आवाज़े शामिल होगी।

यहाँ कई महिलायें बैठी हैं, लेकिन बहुत कम हैं। मै चाहता हूं कि ये कमरा आधा महिलायों से भरा हो। आने वाले दिनों में 50% महिलायें होंगी। उत्तर प्रदेश में मैं महिला समुहों के साथ काम करता हूं। मैं उनसे कई बातें सीखा हूं। और उन्होंनें मुझे यह बताया कि इस देश में जब तक महिलायें सशक्त नहीं होंगी तब तक यह देश तरक्की नहीं कर सकता।

कांग्रेस अब आपकी लड़ाई लड़ेगी और आपको सशक्त बनाऐगी। कांग्रेस आपको इज्जत और आपका हक दिलायेगी।

लेकिन भारत निर्माण एक ऐसा कार्य है, जिसमें हम जितनी बाधाए पार करेंगे, उतनी ही नयी चुनौतियां हमारे सामने आयेंगी। कांग्रेस शासनकाल में गरीबी रेखा से नीचे रहने वाले लोगों के जीवन में बड़ा बदलाव आया है। 14 करोड़ लोग गरीबी से बाहर आ गए हैं। मध्यम और अमीर वर्ग के लोगों को भी बहुत फायदा हुआ है।

आज़ जब पुरे देश में लोगों की आमदनी बढ़ी है, तो गरीबी रेखा से ऊपर वाला लोगों का एक नया वर्ग सामने आया है। उनकी आमदनी तो बढ़ी है, लेकिन अपने सपनों को पूरा करने के लिये वे संघर्ष कर रहें है। ये वो करोड़ों लोग हैं जो आज ना बीपीएल में हैं और ना मध्यम वर्ग में हैं। मैं उन 70 करोड़ लोगों की बात कर रहा हूँ जो शहरों और गांवो में कड़ी मेहनत करते हैं। ये असंगठित क्षेत्र मे काम करने वाले दिहाड़ी मजदूर हैं, पेन्टर, वेल्डर, कारपेन्टर और रेहडी-पटरी लगाने वाले लोग हैं। ये खेतों में काम करने वाले हमारे किसान हैं। ये वो लोग हैं जो काम की तलाश में अपना घर-बार छोड़कर शहरों को पलायन करतें हैं। वो लोग जो अपनी पहचान के लिये संघर्ष करतें हैं। वो लोग जो अपने बच्चों को उचित शिक्षा देने के लिये रात दिन मेहनत कर रहें हैं। ये वो लोग हैं, जो इस डर में जीते हैं कि अगर उनके परिवार का कोई भी सदस्य बडी बीमारी का शिकार हो गया तो वो वापस गरीबी की तरफ चले जायेंगें। वो लोग जो इस चिन्ता में जीते हैं कि बुढापे में अपनी बुनियादी जरूरतों को कैसे पूरा करेंगें। वो लोग, जो भ्रष्ट अफसरों का बोझ भारत के दूसरे लोगों से ज्यादा उठाते हैं। वो लोग, महिलायें और परिवार जो हमारे देश को बना रहें हैं और जिनकी वजह से यह देश चल रहा हैं।

हमें लोगों के इस वर्ग की खुशहाली और तरक्की के लिये कुछ नये ठोस कदम उठाने की जरूरत है। उनके भविष्य, शिक्षा और स्वास्थ्य जरूरतों को ध्यान में रखकर नयी योजनाए बनानी होंगी।

हम सार्वजनिक जीवन में उनकी आवाज़ हैं। हम उन्हें वो सम्मान और इंसाफ देंगें जिसके आप हकदार हैं। हमारे सामने जो चुनौतियां हैं उनको लेकर हमारा विज़न साफ है!

पहले, तीन महीनों में हम आम लोगों की सबसे बड़ी समस्या, महंगाई और भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ तेजी से काम करेगें। महंगाई का एक कारण आर्थिक मंदी है। लेकिन इसकी कुछ वज़हें हमारे देश से भी जुड़ी हैं। जमाखोरी और काला बाजारी करने वाले भी इसके लिए जिम्मेदार हैं। 27 दिसंबर को मैं कांग्रेस के 11 राज्यों के मुख्यमंत्रियों से मिला और मैंने निर्णय किया कि एक मजबूत और प्रभावशाली फाइव पोइन्ट एक्शन प्रोग्राम को जल्दी से लागू किया जाए ताकि भ्रष्टाचार पर रोक लगे, महंगाई पर रोक लगे और जमाखोरों तथा कालाबाजारी करने वालों पर सख्त कार्यवाही हो। इसमें कांग्रेस राज्यों में एपीएमसी से फलों और सब्जियों की डीलिस्टिंग शामिल है।

दूसरा, कुछ ऐसी बातें हैं जो हम जो अच्छे से नहीं करते हैं। उसे मार्केटिंग कहते है। हमारे विरोधी इसमें बेहतर है। वे गंजे लोगों को भी कंघी बेच सकते हैं। हमारी खासियत सच बताने की है और हम लोगों से सीधा संवाद करेंगें हैं, दुष्प्रचार का सच सामने लाऐंगें। कांग्रेस के रिकार्ड, सोच और विज़न को लोगों के बीच लेकर जाऐंगें।

तीसरा, हम लोगों के समक्ष अपने घोषणापत्र में कुछ ठोस बातें रखेंगे। हम उनसे वे वादे करेंगें जिनमें समाज के विभिन्न तबकों, युवाओं, महिलाओं, SC, ST, OBCs, (खास तौर पर अतिपिछड़ों) और अल्पसंख्यकों की आवाज़ शामिल हों।

मैं एक बात और कहना चाहता हूं और यह बात मैं प्रधानमंत्री जी से कहना चाहता हूं। यहाँ कई महिलायें बैठी हैं और यह उनके दिल की बात है कि 9 गैस सिलेण्डर से काम नहीं चलता है, हमें 12 गैस सिलेण्डर चाहिए।

We are not assembled here as individuals today. We are assembled here as the trustees of an idea that is far greater than any one of us. We respect the liberty and dignity of every one of our countrymen. We do not love our country because of its economic or political power, we love our country because it upholds the ideals we wish to live by. We love it because it stands on the ideals of humanity and inclusion. No matter how much our shortcomings may frustrate us, we love this country because it has always taught us to love each other. It has always taught us how to remain united in the face of adversity. And it has always taught us to never give up, no matter how hard the struggle, or how dark the night. India teaches us to fight on with compassion in our hearts and faith in our future.

My friends, there is a tough battle before us.

We will go into this battle as warriors with our heads held high. We will not look back. We will go into this battle knowing who we are and what we stand for. We will fight with all that we have within us. We will not rest. We will not lose courage. And we will not stop till the battle is won.

First Published: Jan 18, 2014 01:23 IST