Indicates old guard will have to make way

A combative Rahul Gandhi, without naming Narendra Modi, led a no-holds-barred attack on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for seeking to establish a “Congress-free India,” saying the country could not be run on the diktat of one man.

“The opposition that wants a Congress-free India is unfamiliar with this country’s history,” Mr Gandhi said at the AICC session on Friday to repeated applause. In his speeches Mr. Modi has repeatedly asked voters to defeat the Congress.

Stressing that his party’s ideology encapsulated the soul of India articulated through the ages by Emperor Ashok, Guru Nanak, Akbar and Gandhi, the Congress vice-president said: “Anyone who wants to destroy this will be destroyed himself.”

A day after the Congress Working Committee announced that Mr. Gandhi would lead the party’s campaign in Election 2014, he rallied party workers with a 45-minute rousing speech.

Mr. Gandhi urged the government to pass pending anti-corruption legislation as well as the women’s reservation Bill next month and pushed for raising the annual cap of subsidised LPG cylinders from nine to 12.

The day-long session also sent out the message that a generational shift was needed with even Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram suggesting that half of the Congress’s candidates should be under 35, a theme that many speakers took up.

Two-thirds of those who spoke were young and Mr. Gandhi subtly indicated that the old guard would have to make way for Gen Next.

While thanking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi and all the older leaders for their leadership and contribution to the party, Mr. Gandhi said the Congress was “for the young” and the “young at heart.”

More In: National | News