NATIONAL

`No let-up in fight against communalism'

NEW DELHI, AUG. 21. Coming together for the first time since the Manmohan Singh Government took office, the Congress leadership and delegates today signalled that the fight against the communal forces was on and that the party remained mindful of the interests and the welfare of "aam aadmi" (common man).

Both the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh asserted that the divisive forces would not be allowed to get away with their agenda of mischief.

The one-day session of the All-India Congress Committee found the party in an upbeat mood. If in her inaugural remarks, Ms. Gandhi reiterated her party's secular commitments, she also tried hard to send out a message that the entire party hierarchy was respectful towards the Prime Minister.

To enthusiastic applause, she declared "In Dr. Manmohan Singh, India has a Prime Minister of great learning, vast administrative experience and impeccable reputation. Let us welcome him today and congratulate him once again."

On his part, the Prime Minister, Dr. Singh, mentioned that the people's mandate was in favour of Ms. Gandhi and all the allies of the United Progressive Alliance too were of the opinion that she be the Prime Minister. However, she made a supreme sacrifice by not accepting the post and the decision was unique in world history. He then went on to state how he felt honoured for the trust she reposed in him.

But the prime focus was on the fight against communal forces. It was reflected in Ms. Gandhi's speech and the political resolution adopted at the session with both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party coming in the line of fire.

Ideological battle

The fight with the BJP, she said, was not limited to an electoral tussle but was an ideological battle. Congress nationalism was based on the best Indian traditions and culture that was secular, liberal and inclusive whereas the BJP definition of nationalism was based on discrimination, hatred and fundamentalism. The BJP rejects all these values and this was the message the party needs to carry to each and every home.

She said there could be no let-up in the Congress fight against the RSS and its outfits. The RSS, she charged was spreading the communal poison at a time when the country's founding fathers were engaged in freedom struggle and later tried to show the efforts of nation-building by party leaders in poor light.

Respect party workers

On the political front, Ms. Gandhi took on the BJP-led NDA, stating that "their arrogance, their lust for power and their pursuit of personal profit blinded them to reality. They believed they had attained political immortality... yet, the BJP is behaving in a manner that subverts this mandate. It has not accepted its rejection by the people, by the aam aadmi."

Ms. Gandhi emphasised the need to "respect" party workers and also to associate and promote common workers with the party programme.

Similarly, the observation that her suggestion to Chief Ministers and State units to follow a code of conduct and adopt simple living appeared to have been ignored, rung loud and clear.

She said there should be no double standards inviting charges that even as the party talked of concern for the poor, its leaders lived in style and opulence.

The session being held to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of the former Congress president, Rajiv Gandhi, paid tribute to the vision of the man who became the country's youngest Prime Minister. Besides the special resolution, the "presence" of the late leader was made to be felt what with Ms. Gandhi herself recalling his contribution both in her opening remarks and concluding observation. Dr. Singh too noted his achievements in a short span of time that left an imprint on the nation.

Overall, the meeting adopted four resolutions — a combined one explaining the political, economic and international stand of the party, one recalling Rajiv Gandhi's contribution, another thanking the people and Sonia Gandhi and the last on Panchayati Raj.