Describing Congress president Rahul Gandhi as “now my boss too”, Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday made a strong pitch for an alliance of the “like-minded” parties for the next Lok Sabha elections to ensure the ruling BJP’s defeat in order to ‘restore India to a democratic, inclusive, secular, tolerant and economically progressive path”.
Two months after handing over the party’s reins to her son Rahul after her 19-year-long stint as Congress president, Sonia, while addressing a CPP meeting here this morning, defined her new role, saying, “As for myself, as CPP chairperson, I will work with the Congress president and other colleagues in discussions with like-minded, political parties to ensure that in the next election, the BJP is defeated.”
She had been the chairperson of the then ruling Congress-led UPA alliance for 10 years during 2004-2014. Referring to the Congress’s recent performance in Rajasthan bypolls and Gujarat assembly elections, Sonia said the process of ‘resurgence’ and ‘revival’ of the party under Rahul has begun.
Tearing into the Narendra Modi government for ‘failing’ the country and its people on all fronts ~ social, economic, and foreign ~ Sonia alleged that during its four-year tenure, institutions that are at the foundation of our democracy have come under systematic assault ~ Parliament itself, the judiciary, media and civil society. She called the Modi model, “A game of maximum marketing, minimum delivery”.
She told the CPP: “An all-pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation has been created. Liberal, secular and democratic traditions are being wantonly damaged. The pluralistic nature of our society ~ which has been its strength for centuries ~ is being eroded.” Sonia said, “As we look around us, we see a deeply troubled country and deeply troubled people.”
Charging that the minorities, Dalits and women have come under ‘barbarous and widespread’ attacks, she alleged, in many cases this violence was ‘not sporadic, but orchestrated to polarise our society for narrow political gains’. “We saw this in both UP and Gujarat. We will no doubt see it again in Karnataka,” she alleged.
Highlighting the Modi government’s ‘abject failures’, the CPP chief also alleged: “Agriculture continues to be in deep distress and the desperation of farmers is sadly evident in the number of suicides. The rural economy and small and medium enterprises, are in shambles.
Unemployment is staring at our youth.” Referring to the current Union Budget, she said it was full of sleights of hand ~ of jumlas ~ such as the impossible-to-achieve promise to double farmer incomes in five years, and the promises of increased support prices without clarifying their basis. She added that a revised health insurance scheme has been passed off as new and proposed without adequate preparation or worse, budgetary support.