Determined to do whatever needed to ensure party unity: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi

Describing the outcome of the recently-held Assembly elections as “shocking and painful”, Congress President Sonia Gandhi Tuesday said the road ahead for the party is “more challenging than ever before”, which will put to test the party’s dedication, determination and spirit of resilience.

Gandhi, without referring to the remarks of the G 23 leaders or rumblings in several state units, said she was determined to ensure unity in the party.

“I am very well aware of how disappointed you are at the recent election results. They have been both shocking and painful. The CWC has met once to review our performance. I have met with other colleagues too. I have received many suggestions on how to strengthen our organization. Many are pertinent and I am working on them,” she told a meeting of the general body of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

Gandhi said holding a Chintan Shivir is also very necessary as “that is where the views of a larger number of colleagues and party representatives will be heard.” “They will contribute to putting forward a clear roadmap on the urgent steps to be taken by our party on how best to meet the challenges we are confronted with,” she said.

“The road ahead is more challenging than ever before. Our dedication and determination, our spirit of resilience are under severe test. Unity at all levels of our vast organisation is of paramount importance and speaking for myself, I am determined to do whatever is needed to ensure it,” Gandhi added.

She said the revival of the Congress is “not just a matter of importance to us alone—it is, in fact, essential for our democracy itself and indeed for our society as well.”

Gandhi attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-government’s policies and the ruling party’s “divisive and polarizing agenda”.

“The divisive and polarizing agenda of the ruling party and its leaders has now become a regular feature of the political discourse in state after state. History—not just ancient but also contemporary–is mischievously distorted and facts are maliciously invented to add fuel to this agenda. It is for us all to stand up and confront these forces of hate and prejudice. We will not allow them to damage the bonds of amity and harmony that have sustained and enriched our diverse society for centuries” she said.

She said the government continues to target the Opposition, its leaders and workers.

“The full might of the state machinery is unleashed against them. Maximum governance to those in power clearly means spreading maximum fear and intimidation. Such blatant threats and tactics will not frighten or silence us nor will we get cowed down,” she said.

On the policy front, Gandhi asserted that the government’s attitude remains unchanged.

“MSMEs are still in a most precarious condition. There is no sign whatsoever that the commitments made to the farmers are going to be fulfilled in any significant manner. Prices of cooking gas and oil, petrol, diesel, fertilizers and other essential commodities have risen to an unbearable limit –- and continue to rise”, she said.

Taking a dig at the government, she said “in matters of governance, it is inevitable that some do the real work and lay the foundations while others claim the credit.”

“I am glad that at least two landmark initiatives of the Congress-led UPA government much criticized by no less a person than the Prime Minister have turned out to be saviours for crores of our people in the last two years,” she said, referring to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the National Food Security Act.

On Chinese aggression, the Congress chief said, “In spite of repeated attempts, we have been unable to get the government to agree to a discussion on the situation on our borders, a discussion that could only have deepened the sense of collective resolve. The value of non-alignment as a foundational principle of the nation’s foreign policy that was criticized so much has now, I am glad to note, been rediscovered even though it may not be acknowledged as such.”

“That said, the future of the thousands of students who have been evacuated from Ukraine needs to be assured at the earliest. And sooner rather than later, the continuing astronomical cost of medical education in the country needs to be addressed,” Gandhi added.

Referring to the recent strike by central trade unions and the issues raised by them, she said, “Labour laws have been diluted at a time of growing unemployment and livelihood insecurity. Interest rates on employee provident fund accumulations have been reduced considerably. Public sector enterprises, the one important avenue for employment of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are being sold off under the fancy name “asset monetisation”. This will be another disaster as demonetisation turned out to be.”

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