The Congress leadership on Wednesday attacked the BJP frontally, taking on both its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and its “policies of divisiveness.”

Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a reference to the BJP’s projection of Mr. Modi as a strong leader, said, “Nor should we simply talk of firm leadership and decisiveness without talking of what the leadership will be used for and what decisions will be taken.” He also took potshots at the Aam Aadmi Party for making promises that “lie outside the realm of possibility.”

It was a combative Prime Minister, who faced his party colleagues, telling them not to despair ahead of 2014, as Assembly elections “are not necessarily an indication of what will happen in the general election that follows some months later.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, without naming the BJP, said: “Our opponents advocate policies of divisiveness and sectarian interests. They mock our secular ethos.” She stressed that “their ideology is illiberal and will prevent the continuing modernisation and emancipation of our country.” Congressmen, she said, must not be afraid of speaking “against those who offer only a narrow and destructive alternative.” Democracy, secularism, liberalism and inclusiveness are “the abiding values” of the Congress, she said, as this was the only way to be in a country “defined by diversities.”

Taking on the BJP’s characterisation of Dr. Singh as a weak leader, Ms. Gandhi said, “The Opposition spent much time and energy in making vituperative and completely baseless personal attacks on all of us, including the Prime Minister.”

The Prime Minister defended his record, saying some people believed the government did not care about growth, and cared only about inclusiveness. “This is a completely mistaken impression. We care deeply about both.” With price rise being cited as the major reason for the Congress debacle in the just-concluded elections, Dr. Singh said while the “worry about inflation is legitimate,” it also needed to be noted that incomes of most people had increased faster than inflation.

Ms. Gandhi did not merely target the BJP — she turned the mirror inwards too: lack of discipline and unity were among the reasons for the party’s debacle, she said, stressing that Congress workers must “not lose heart” as there is another battle ahead in May 2014.

A booklet on the achievements of the UPA government was distributed to party MPs, who were asked to spread the good word among the electorate more effectively.

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