Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said she was a “full-time and hands-on Congress president”. Gandhi was delivering the opening remarks at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in New Delhi.
Gandhi has been the interim Congress chief since her son and MP Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post after the party’s drubbing in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
At the meeting, she also stressed that the revival of the party depends on unity, self-control and discipline.
“The entire organisation wants a revival of the Congress,” Gandhi said. “I’ve always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me through the media. So, let us all have free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC.”
The Congress chief was referring to the group of 23 leaders, also known as G-23, who had written to her in August last year to press for a complete revamp of the party’s organisation. The G-23 leaders have repeatedly said that the party needs an active president.
At a press conference on September 29, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal had declared, “We are G-23, but definitely not Ji Huzoor [yes-men] 23.”
Sibal had said that there was no clarity on who was taking decisions within the party after the Congress Punjab state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned from his post.
Gandhi on Saturday said the party’s plan to conduct polls on June 30 to elect a new president were postponed indefinitely by the Congress Working Committee because of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
She confirmed that the elections would be held and Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal will address the matter.
Gandhi also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre for its failure on various matters, including foreign policy, price rise and the farmers’ protest.
About the three farm laws, the Congress chief alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi rushed them through Parliament in September 2020 so a few private companies could benefit.
“Farmers began their protests immediately and have suffered so much since then,” Gandhi said. “The shocking incident at Lakhimpur-Kheri betrays the mindset of the BJP, how it perceives the kisan aandolan [farmers’ protest], how it has been dealing with kisans to protect their lives and livehoods.”
Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, is one of the accused person in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people, including four farmers, were killed during a protest against Centre’s farm laws on October 3. Farmer organisations have alleged that a vehicle belonging to Ashish Mishra had run over these protestors.
Modi and many of his Cabinet ministers have not yet spoken about the violence.
On Saturday, Gandhi claimed that that the economy continues to be of great concern despite the “government’s propaganda to make us believe that it is not”. She added that Modi government wants to improve the economy only by selling the assets of the country.
Gandhi also pointed out that the prices of essential commodities have been rising.
“Could anyone in the country ever imagine that petrol prices would be over Rs 100 a litre, diesel would be nearing Rs 100 a litre, a gas cylinder would cost Rs 900 and cooking oil would be Rs 200 a litre?” the Congress chief asked. “This is making life unbearable for people across the country.”
The Congress leader also spoke about Modi’s continued reluctance to take the Opposition into confidence on foreign policy matters. “Foreign policy has become diabolical instrument of electoral mobilisation and polarisation,” she alleged. “We face serious challenges on the border.”
She said that the prime minister told Opposition leaders last year that India’s territory had not been taken over by the China. His silence on the matter since then, Gandhi said, “is costing our nation dearly”.
A reported published in the Economic Times in September had claimed that more than 100 Chinese troops transgressed into Indian territory on August 30 through the border point at Barahoti ridge in Uttarakhand.
Apart from this, India and China have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year.
At the Congress meeting, Gandhi said that the Centre had changed its coronavirus vaccination policy in response to the demands raised by state governments.
But, she added: “Even so, cooperative federalism remains only a slogan and the Centre loses no opportunity to put non-BJP states at a disadvantage.”
Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Punjab counterpart Charanjit Channi were among 57 party members at the meeting, reported NDTV.