Gandhi spoke at All India Congress Committee (AICC) Plenary Session. here after a resolution was passed thanking her for her services to the party. Thanking the party for “what has been said about me and what we have done … what we have done under my presidency and under the UPA government”, Gandhi said: “It also shows how old I have become and how the young people under the leadership of Karge ji must move forward.”
Looking back on her tenure as Congress President, Gandhi said, “I had the honor of assuming the office of President for the first time in 1998. During these 25 years, our party has seen times of high achievement as well as deep disappointment.”
“The support, goodwill and understanding of each and every one of you and all Congress Party workers across the country has given strength to us all. Our victories in 2004 and 2009 along with the able leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh ji gave me personal satisfaction, but what makes me most happy is that my innings can end with the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Gandhi said.
At a press conference later, Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh responded to questions on whether Gandhi’s remarks meant she was retiring from politics. But senior Congress leader and AICC general secretary Kumari Selya said Gandhi did not mean that she was retiring from politics and was speaking in the context of her tenure as party head. Gandhi was the party president when the Yatra started from Tamil Nadu on September 7. Elections for the post of Congress President were held in October and Mallikarjun Kharge officially took charge on 25 October.
The yatra, Gandhi said, came as a turning point. “It turns out that the people of India overwhelmingly want harmony, tolerance and equality. It renewed the rich heritage of dialogue between our party and the people through mass contact programmes. It has shown us all that the Congress stands with the people and is ready to fight for them,” she said.
Gandhi said Rahul Gandhi’s determination and leadership were key to the success of the Yatra. “This is a particularly challenging time for Congress and for the country as a whole. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and the BJP/RSS regime have mercilessly captured and subverted every institution. It mercilessly silences every voice of the opposition. It has caused economic ruin by favoring a select few businessmen at the expense of everyone else and the people, the common people,” she said.
“And most disturbingly, it stokes the fires of fear and hatred against fellow Indians.” It viciously targeted minorities and ignored atrocities and discrimination against them, against women, against Dalits and against Adivasis. He mocked Gandhi ji and through his words and actions shows his contempt for the values of our Constitution,” Gandhi said.
“In many ways, the situation today reminds me of when I first entered politics. And then, as now, we have a tough fight ahead of us. And at this crucial moment, each of us bears a special responsibility to our party and to our country… The road ahead is not easy, but my experience as well as the rich history of the Congress tell me that victory will be ours. To achieve this under Karge ji’s leadership, we must tackle the regime with boldness and vigor and stand shoulder to shoulder with the people it attacks. We must reach out to people and convey our message with clarity and cohesion… Above all, we must be willing to put aside our personal expectations, make sacrifices, and work with unity and a sense of common purpose.”
She asked the party to remember “the battles our party has won in the past and prepare for the battle ahead.”
New Congress slogan
Meanwhile, claiming that the country is going through “tough times”, Kharge in his speech coined a new slogan for the party – “Sewa, Sangharsh, Balidan; Sabse Pele Hindustan (Service, Struggle, Sacrifice; India Above All)’.
Kharge said the DNA of those in Delhi is “anti-poor” as they are trying to destroy democracy and called for a people’s movement against the prevailing situation in the country.
Taking a jab at the Prime Minister, Kharge said that Modi calls himself “pradan sevak“, but serves the interests of his “friend”. “This friend saw his wealth increase 13 times. “The prime minister is serving his friend,” he said.
Accused of a “conspiracy to destroy democracy” in India, he said the party was working to unite everyone.