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Udaipur, May 13
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday set the ball rolling for a comprehensive revamp of the grand old organisation saying the party urgently needed reforms and extraordinary situations demanded extraordinary responses.
Acknowledging the serial electoral setbacks, Gandhi, kick-starting the three-day Chintan Shivir of the party here, appealed for unity and collective efforts as measures for revival.
“The circumstances our organisation faces today are extraordinary. Such extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures. Every organisation, to live and prosper, must reform itself. We are in urgent need of reforms,” Gandhi said to a 422-strong gathering at seven-star Taj Aravali Resorts here, with prominent G 23 members Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma seated in the front row with Rahul Gandhi, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and P Chidambaram among others.
Sonia also launched a scathing attack on the BJP accusing it of “wholesale reinvention of history, brutalisation of minorities and subjugation of institutions”, saying the Congress must fight the BJP at “all costs”.
She, however, described the party’s own state of affairs and challenges as the moot question and assured that the Congress would reclaim its position in Indian politics.
The Congress chief minced no words in acknowledging the Congress’s limitations and said the party needed change in strategy, improvement across organisational structures and transformation in the manner of daily work.
“In one way, this (Congress transformation) is the most fundamental issue. Our revival is possible only through collective efforts. Such collective efforts will not be deferred. This Shivir starts the journey,” Gandhi said to an applause.
In veiled references to the brewing dissent within, rebellion outside, defections and general angst, the Congress chief reminded leaders to repay the party’s debt.
“The time has come to keep personal ambitions below organisational imperatives. The party has given a lot to everyone. Now is the time to repay the debt. There is nothing better than this,” Gandhi said seeking free and frank discussions within Chintan Shivir panels.
After the Congress asked delegates to put their cell phones away in specially commissioned lockers, Gandhi said, “I urge you all to speak freely but to let only one message go out — the message of strength, unity and resolve.”
She told delegates of her awareness regarding electoral setbacks and added, “We are not unaware of people’s expectations either. We are here to take individual and collective pledges to revive the Congress and will revert to the role we have always played in Indian politics”.
Earlier, Gandhi attacked the BJP saying the ruling party’s frequently repeated slogan of ‘maximum governance and minimum government’ meant a host of unsavoury things.
“It means keeping the country in a state of permanent polarisation, compelling people to remain in constant fear, viciously targeting and often brutalising minorities who are an integral part of our society and equal citizens of the Republic, using age-old pluralities to divide us and subverting unity and diversity, threatening political opponents, maligning their reputations, jailing them on flimsy pretexts, misusing probe agencies against them, eroding professionalism of all institutions, wholesale reinvention of history, constant denigration of national leaders and Nehru, glorifying killers of Mahatma Gandhi and their ideologies, blatantly undermining the principles of the Constitution, turning a blind eye to continuous atrocities, especially on Dalits, tribals and women, using fear to make bureaucracy, corporate India, civil society and sections of media fall in line,” said Gandhi.
She took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, taunting him for eloquent slogans when the country “needed a healing touch”.
Noting that the fires of hatred and discord being ignited were taking a heavy toll on people, Gandhi said the Congress must fight the divisive forces “at all costs”.
She also questioned the government for a “sliding economy” and for “non-fulfilment of promises” made to farmers at the time of withdrawal of the farmers’ agitation.