Narendra Modi abusing 2019 mandate, says Sonia Gandhi

Hit the streets over people’s issues: Congress chief

Updated - December 03, 2021 08:12 am IST

Published - September 12, 2019 08:06 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with K.C. Venugopal and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting with general secretaries, incharges of States, PCC presidents and CLP leaders of the party at the AICC Headquarters, in New Delhi on September 12, 2019.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with K.C. Venugopal and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting with general secretaries, incharges of States, PCC presidents and CLP leaders of the party at the AICC Headquarters, in New Delhi on September 12, 2019.

Accusing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government of “abusing the 2019 mandate in the most dangerous fashion”, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday called upon her colleagues to hit the streets over people’s issues as “attacking or being aggressive on social media” was not enough. At the same time, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh asserted that the country was in the midst of a protracted slowdown.

Both Ms. Gandhi and Dr. Singh made these remarks at a meeting of top party leaders from across the country to discuss plans for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations, undertaking an extensive membership drive and training of party workers in Congress ideology.

Following Ms. Gandhi’s call, the Congress party announced that it would have nationwide agitations between October 15 and 25 over the economic slowdown .

Ms. Gandhi urged her colleagues to combat forces that “appropriate Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and misrepresent their true message”.

This was the first major meeting of All India Congress Committee general secretaries, State Congress chiefs and Congress Legislative Party leaders after she took over as the interim Congress president on August 10. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi wasn’t a part of the meeting.

Amidst factionalism and allegations of corruption, Ms. Gandhi had a clear message to the Congress-ruled States: stand out as responsive, transparent and accountable governments or lose people’s support.

“Democracy has never been at a greater peril than it is now. As I said a few weeks back, the mandate of 2019 is now being misused and abused in a most dangerous fashion,” she said in her opening remarks.

“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. The voices of dissent are being silenced,” she said and added that the “government was clueless about the “economic slump, mounting job losses and the shaky investors’ confidence”.

“We must stand up fearlessly to fight on the streets, fight in villages, towns and cities. We must have a concrete agitational agenda on issues of pressing concern to the people — whether they be 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 that better. Far more important is to go to the people directly,” Ms. Gandhi.

Reflecting on the desertions by party leaders, the Congress chief asked her colleagues not to let their self-confidence and morale falter.

“This is the time when it will become clear as to who are those steadfastly devoted to the Congress as an ideology, to 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,” she said.

The Congress chief admitted that the upcoming elections to the three States of Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra are challenging but if leaders keep the party’s interests uppermost, then the Congress will regain lost position.

“Let me also say that we have a special responsibility in the states where we are in power – Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry. These states must stand out as examples of sensitive and responsive governance, accountable and transparent administration,” she said and went to warn: “We must be seen to be fulfilling our manifesto commitments. If not, we will lose people’s support with obvious consequences”.

The Congress chief will be meeting Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States on Friday and is learnt to have met Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his deputy, Sachin Pilot, on Thursday evening after their differences over the State’s law and order surfaced publicly.

 Senior leader Digvijaya Singh, whose letters to Madhya Pradesh Ministers had stirred a controversy, was also reportedly summoned by Ms. Gandhi separately.

Apart from party general secretaries including Priyana Gandhi Vadra, those in attendance included Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel and Puducherry CM V. Narayanasamy. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, however, skipped the meeting citing government business.

To mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress also announced that it would hold padayatras across the country from October 2 to October 9 and also launch an aggressive membership drive among the youth by creating an app.

“We also agreed unanimously about the need to educate people about Mahatma Gandhi on his ideas about freedom, Swaraj, nationalism and secularism,” Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal told reporters.

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