Lok Sabha polls: Congress promises to bring focus back on 'real issues'

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addresses during Jan Sankalp Rally, in Gandhinagar | Photo: PTI
At its working committee meeting here on Tuesday, the last meeting of the party’s top decision-making body before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress leadership expressed “strong disappointment” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “cynically exploiting the issue of national security to divert attention from his colossal failures, bogus claims and persistent falsehoods”.

In a political resolution adopted at the meeting, the Congress said, “five years of Modi-BJP government has been a period of false promises and betrayal of people’s trust and confidence.” It resolved to bring back the focus of its criticism of the Modi government on “real issues” that affect the people – of jobs and farm distress.

The debut of party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as a CWC member was also the highlight of the meeting. Priyanka said the party’s proposal of a minimum income guarantee needed better publicity and suggested the acronym NYAY, or nyuntam aay yojana. Later addressing a public meeting, she appealed to the people to show their patriotism for the country by asking questions on issues that affected their lives.

“This is no less a fight than the one that Gandhi ji and others fought to achieve Independence,” Priyanka said, reminding the people that it was the anniversary of the Dandi march led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. 

In its political resolution, the Congress gave a clarion call from the PM’s home turf to “all democratic and progressive forces to unite and pool their energies to relentlessly fight and expose the anti-people policies of the BJP Government”. It also appealed to them to expose the Modi government’s “failure to deliver on the promises it made in 2014 and not to allow the nation’s political narrative be vitiated and focus deflected from the real issues that concern our people”.

Indicating that the Congress was looking at building effective pre-poll alliances to defeat the BJP, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said no sacrifice is too great in the endeavour to defeat the “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-BJP ideology of fascism, hatred, anger and divisiveness”. He said the Congress would fight the Lok Sabha polls with the combined Opposition, and could win if it worked well together. Party leader P Chidambaram said the Congress should win 150-seats and its pre-poll and potential post-poll alliances win a matching number. Chidambaram said the manifesto of the party was in its final stages of drafting. He said the manifesto should contain “bold, radical and disruptive ideas”. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the PM “harboured an imaginary sense of victimhood”.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addresses during Jan Sankalp Rally, in Gandhinagar | PTI
While the Congress president, the UPA chairperson and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot spoke about the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal, few other leaders raised the issue during the CWC meeting. The Rafale issue did not find a mention in the party’s political resolution. However, at the public meeting later in the day, the Congress president spoke at length on the Rafale issue.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke of the failures of the Modi government, its “half-baked policies” and “selling of lies”, but also the need to showcase the achievements of the UPA rule. In the political resolution, the Congress said the government has been “a failure on all fronts and has inflicted pain and misery on the people through its reckless decisions of demonetisation and hasty imposition of a flawed GST”.

Bringing the focus back on issues that it believes hurt the people and contributed to the BJP’s losses in the three northern states, the Congress resolution said demonetisation and GST led to millions of factories being closed, unorganised sector, micro, small and medium enterprises were worst affected and tens of millions of workers lost their jobs and livelihood. "The unprecedented joblessness, agrarian crisis and distress of farmers and landless labourers are issues of grave national concern," the resolution stated.

It said the Modi government has been guilty of monumental mismanagement of the Indian economy. National savings and investments have sharply declined, banks are burdened with non-performing assets and credit off-take of the Industry has reached a record low, it said.

Some leaders like R P N Singh said that the Pulwama terror attack and subsequent surgical strike has consolidated the BJP’s support base. The CWC started by paying homage to those killed in the Pulwama terror attack.

Gandhis visit Sabarmati Ashram

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during her visit to Gandhi Ashram for a prayer meeting, in Ahmedabad | PTI

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday visited the museum at the Sabarmati Ashram here and termed the place as "very inspiring".

After attending a prayer meet at the ashram to pay their respects to Mahatma Gandhi, both the leaders visited the museum in the premises and wrote their remarks in the visitors' book.

"It is most inspiring for me to visit this museum... We are inspired by him (Mahatma Gandhi), his life, his sacrifice," Sonia Gandhi wrote in the book.

Rahul Gandhi lauded the museum authorities for keeping the essence of the Father of the Nation alive at the place.

"A very inspiring place. Thank you for keeping the flame of our leader alive," he wrote in the visitors' book.

Senior Congress leaders were at the ashram to attend an all-religion prayer meet ahead of the party's working committee meet and a public rally.

The party leaders sought to give a symbolic message to the people of the country by remembering Mahatma and his ideals of non-violence and tolerance.

Tuesday also marks the anniversary of the famous 'Dandi March' started by Mahatma Gandhi from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12, 1930 with a group of Satyagrahis.

Later, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders paid tributes to martyrs at the Shaheed Smarak before proceeding for the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet.

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