Jaipur: Blowing the bugle for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections at the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur on Sunday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi told party members to not indulge in nepotism and show unity to face the challenge of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. "Only 15 months are left for elections. If we work with unity and discipline there is no reason why we won't get people's mandate again," she said.
Sonia added that there was a need to be sensitive towards people to bring change in the country. She told party leaders to work for the welfare of all and not restrict themselves to their "favourites".
Sonia said that there was a need to explain to people why the government took some tough economic reform decisions recently. "Government took few tough decisions due to economic downturn. We need to explain to public why those decisions were necessary," she said in her address on the last day of two-day Chintan Shivir in Jaipur.
Hailing the participation of the young leaders in the Chintan Shivir, Sonia said she was happy that her younger colleagues actively took part in the brain storming conclave and hoped that it will help the party project new leadership. Amdist cheers for the Congress's newly-appointed Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the party president said: "Delighted with the participation of so many youths. Involving young people more centrally is necessary to develop and protect new leadership."
Sonia also highlighted the efforts the UPA government was making to fight corruption. She said that the government has initiated five-point programme, including drafting laws to combat corruption. The UPA chairperson also took the credit of introducing the Lokpal bill in Parliament.
Praising the government's newly launched Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme, also called 'Aapka Paisa Aapke Hath', she said that it will benefit people by transfer of money meant for pensions and scholarships directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
The DBTS will eliminate corruption by middlemen, she said terming graft as a "deep-rooted malice" affecting all sections of the society. She further said that her party condemns those non-Congress state governments, which have laid claims to flagship programmes launched by the UPA government.
Under attack over slow response to public protests in the wake of the gangrape incident in Delhi, Sonia said people were right in demanding answers and actions in the case as safety of women was a fundamental right. The sacrifice of the girl who was brutally raped and assaulted in a bus in December, 2012 would not be in vain as it has shaken the conscience of the nation, she said in her address. Gandhi said the young gangrape victim was "tragically the symbol of women and children who suffer similar fate" in the wake of denial of justice.
She also said the atrocities on women and children was a reflection of "shameful" social mindset which needed to be changed. In her opening remarks, she deprecated the "shocking remarks" made by public figures in the wake of the rape incident and said they were unacceptable. Sonia said the UPA government has drafted laws for women's empowerment like providing them protection against sexual harassment at workplace and providing them better representation in panchayats.
The Congress president said she would personally press for the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill pending in the Lok Sabha. She made a strong pitch for electoral reforms and political funding saying people are getting disillusioned with the political process and there is a need to address the issue with sensitivity.
"We have to admit that people are getting disillusioned with the political process. We have to understand what the causes of this disillusionment are and we have to do away with this with sensitivity," Sonia said striking an introspective note. She also wanted that the attempts to tarnish the image of political politicians and democratic institutions should be countered.
Sonia also announced setting up of a special group within the party which would consider all suggestions and come out with a programme at the earliest. "We have to make now time bound programmes to do it," she said.
(With additional information from PTI)