2014 will be a battle for India: Sonia

 18 Jan 2014 - 0:00

Congress party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is hugged by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Sonia Gandhi, chief of the party, watches at the end of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in New Delhi yesterday.

New Delhi: In a combative speech that sounded like an election bugle for a beleaguered party facing widespread public resentment, particularly from the middle class, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said yesterday that the “divisive” ideology of BJP will only end up dividing the country, adding that the April-May Lok Sabha elections will be “a battle for India” and its secular traditions.
In her opening address at the All India Congress Committee meeting at the Talkatora Stadium here, Sonia Gandhi exhorted party workers to keep up their spirit of meeting challenges and expressed confidence that the party will emerge victorious in the struggles ahead. 
“We assemble here as the 2014 Lok Sabha elections approach. We meet today to send a clear signal that the Congress is ready and prepared for the battle ahead,” she said. Referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party as the “main political adversary”, Gandhi said its path was of “dividing the society” on communal lines. 
In a hard-hitting speech that started off in English and then switched to Hindi, Gandhi accused the BJP of spreading radicalism and hatred. “In the name of unity, they want to impose uniformity. Their way is to hide their real face behind artificial politeness. It is to criticise our leaders and make false allegations against them. And it is even to spread violence. How can such ideology be tolerated,” she said.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is a trenchant critic of the Congress and has been urging people to work for “Congress-free” India.
Sonia Gandhi said that Lok Sabha elections will be a sharpening contest between conflicting ideologies, between competing interpretations of the past and between clashing visions of the future”.
“These elections will be a battle for India as it was conceived by our founding fathers and as we cherish. It will be a battle for the preservation of our age-old secular traditions, traditions of diverse communities living harmoniously in one composite national identity,” she said.
The UPA chairperson said: “The Congress has faced many difficult times in the past. Much harder than today. But we have never lost heart. We have repeatedly demonstrated our resilience by remaining committed to our vision, to our values and the beliefs that have always sustained them.” “Our party is woven into the fabric of this nation from its very conception as a modern nation state.”
Meanwhile, the BJP attacked the Congress for developing “cold feet” and not naming Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, saying it showed the party has conceded defeat in the coming Lok Sabha election.
As Bharatiya Janata Party leaders met here parallel to the Congress session, speeches of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi came for scrutiny — as were “parties working on Congress’ support”. Party leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain took a jibe at the ruling party: “The Congress is prepared for defeat while there is an atmosphere of enthusiasm in the BJP camp. The gloom at the Congress meet was visible.” IANS