Jaipur: Calling for party rejuvenation in major states where it has been out of power for the last several years, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked her party leaders to make sure that the policies of the party were not sacrificed on the altar of coalition politics. Warning the younger leaders of the party against vulgar display of wealth, she warned that the common man was fed up of corruption, and the younger India was eager for change.
Speaking at the Chintan Shivir of the party in Jaipur on Friday, the Congress president pointed that it was a new India, which was more demanding and less tolerant, in what probably was a reference to middle class anger at the party. And amidst this talk of young India by Sonia, there was clamour for making Rahul Gandhi the Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, speaking after the meeting to CNN-IBN, Union Minister Kapil Sibal said that the party was yet to decide on the PM candidate, but added, "When party and Rahul are ready, we will let you know."
The Congress president also used the occasion to make a strong pitch for women empowerment, saying it should start from home. "Mothers should teach their boys how to respect women in their family and in the neighbourhood. Women empowerment should start from home," said Sonia.
Asking partymen to bring gender issues to "the heart of our political activity", and assering that the "very disturbing trends" against women and children should wake the party, she described atrocities on women as a blot on conscience and a matter of shame, and stressed that gender issues should not just confined to Mahila Congress or women organisations only. "I must say with the greatest anguish and pain that discrimination against the girl child continues. Atrocities on women, both in urban and rural India, are a blot on our collective conscience and a matter of great shame," she said.
Apart from this, Sonia's speech at the Congress Chintan Shivir directed party leaders to refrain from vulgar display of wealth and exercise austerity. Also, there was a veiled reference to the allegations of corruption which the Congress has been battling in the recent past.
"I'm tempted to say something on the subject which has always bothered me, and this relates to our lifestyle - celebrating weddings, festivals, events is one thing, but what about the lavish, ostentatious display of wealth and status?" asked Sonia.
The Congress president further said, "Does this not beg to question - where is this wealth coming from? I hope we take this seriously and come up with solutions that we can accept and adhere to."
Sonia also made it a point to tell the party members that though the Congress party believed in respecting its allies, adherence to its policies and principles was equally important, adding that power was "not the sole purpose of political activity".
"There are some states where we have dealt out of office. Being in power is not the sole purpose of political activity...we have to strike a balance in between respecting our alliance and policies," said the UPA chairperson, adding, "inclusiveness to us is not a political ploy to win elections, it is in our conviction."
Amidst the instructions to the party members and the roadmap for the elections and alliance, Sonia also had some strong words for Pakistan in the wake of the recent ceasefire violations and the killing of Indian soldiers. Though she said that peace with the neighbour was important, there should not be any compromise on principle.
"Better and closer relations with our immediate neighbour will not only make immediate peace. However, let us be very clear on principle of civilised behaviour," she said.
However, there were few important questions, ranging from the issue of Rahul Gandhi being the PM candidate to that of the rise of Narendra Modi, that the Congress president failed to answer.
What Sonia Gandhi didn't answer:
- How will Congress deal with problem of looking for new allies?
- Is Rahul Gandhi the Congress' PM candidate?
- What's the roadmap to deal with the economic chaos before the country?
- How can the Congress connect itself with the 'Aam Aadmi'?
- How will the Congress deal with its age-old problem of sycophancy?
- How will the Congress deal with rise of Narendra Modi?
- How does the Congress intend to communicate strongly, if Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia hardly speak?
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)