Exhorts Congress leaders in Kerala to end factionalism and unite

In a blistering attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who launched her party’s poll campaign in Kerala on Saturday, said the coming elections were about the “idea of India” where the choice would be between an India of all and an India of some serving the interests of a few.

The Lok Sabha election, she said at a massive convention in Kochi, was crucial because it was about the kind of India people wanted. “The idea of India is under threat from those who just don’t seek to rule, but to change India’s heart and soul.”

“We want unity in diversity, they want uniformity. Our idea joins India together, theirs divides,” she said, wondering whether it was good to give up long-cherished values for “lies and untested promises.”

Launching Nirbhaya Keralam, Surakshitha Keralam project of the State government, the Congress president said her greatest regret was that the Women’s Reservation Bill, though approved by the Rajya Sabha, was not pushed through the Lok Sabha for lack of consensus. The Congress, she said, would continue its efforts to get the law enacted.

Ms. Gandhi also hit out at the CPI(M), main Opposition in the State, and said the people of Kerala would have to choose between a party that stood for the 21st century and one that had an outdated ideology and did not believe in non-violence. The Congress, she said, always stood for dialogue and consensus, never deviating from its avowed principle of non-violence.

Impatient with intense factionalism in the State party, Ms. Gandhi, cheered on loudly by about 20,000 workers, called upon Congressmen to forget their “groups” and rise up as one man to fight the coming election. “To me there is no this group or that group. We are all one group.”

State Congress leaders, including the new PCC (I) president V.M. Sudheeran, also called for unity among workers. Mr. Sudheeran appealed to those who had become inactive due to factional feuds to become active once again and promised them that there would be no discrimination and the deserving would get the respect they deserved.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who has reportedly been sulking following Mr. Sudheeran’s appointment as PCC chief, said he had no difference with him. Explaining his absence at the Naval airport when Ms. Gandhi was on her way to Lakshadweep on Friday, Mr. Chandy said he received the information late and was told by the Congress president’s office that he need not be present at the airport as there was no formal reception.

The Chief Minister has reportedly told Ms. Gandhi of his unhappiness at the manner in which the high command had gone about appointing Mr. Sudheeran.

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