Sonia Gandhi attacks Modi govt, says India led by regressive vision
Mumbai: Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday tore into the Modi government alleging that the country is being led by “regressive vision” and asked if India was really a “giant black hole” before May 2014 and marched to progress only after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the centre.
Gandhi, 71, also alleged that the country, the society, its freedom are now all under systematic and sustained threat and that there is “rewriting of history, falsifying facts and fanning prejudice and bigotry”. In a deeply introspective speech that was followed by a question and answer session, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson spoke on a wide range of topics, including her children, her own shortcomings and the role of democracy in India, the first time she has opened up since relinquishing the party president post.
Gandhi was addressing the India Today Conclave in Mumbai. Gandhi’s no-holds-barred attack came a day after her son and Congress President Rahul Gandhi hit out at the BJP alleging there is a general atmosphere of “intimidation” in India where “nasty form of politics” of dividing people are being played to win elections.
During the interactive session, Sonia Gandhi alleged that the Modi government’s “lack of accommodative spirit” has led to the present politics of acrimony in Parliament which has been rocked by disruptions during this entire week.
Gandhi also said she chose Manmohan Singh as the prime minister in 2004 as she was aware of her limitations and knew that he was a better candidate. “I knew my limitations. I knew Manmohan Singh would be a better prime minister than me.”
She alleged that there is shocking insensitivity to atrocities on Dalits and women and that the society is being polarised in a bid to win elections. “Our country, our society, our freedom are now all under systematic and sustained threat. There is rewriting of history, falsifying facts and fanning prejudice and bigotry,” she said.
“Today we are presented with an alternative and indeed regressive vision,” Gandhi said. “Was India really a giant black hole before May 2014 and start marching to progress only four years ago. Is this not an insult to the intelligence of our people? It is not a matter of taking credit but acknowledging India’s strength,” said the Lok Sabha member from Rae Bareli.
She also said callous remarks about changing the constitution were deliberate attempts to subvert the essence of India it enshrines. “Provocative statements from the ruling establishments are not random or accidental but a part of a dangerous design. Alternate voices are being silenced. Freedom to think, marry according to ones wishes is under attack. Religious tensions are being fuelled, vigilante mobs and private armies have been let loose,” she charged.
“Long standing principles that have stood the country well are being violated. Parliamentary majority is being interpreted as a licence to stifle debate and bulldoze legislations. Political opponents are being targeted through misuse of investigative agencies,” she said.
“The opposition is not allowed to speak in Parliament. People are angry with Congress for the disruptions in Parliament. But there are serious reasons for it. Parliamentary rules are not followed. There is no accommodative spirit. The opposition has a right to speak in Parliament,” she said.
When asked to compare former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Modi, she said Vajpayee respected parliamentary procedures. “We were better opponents and there were disagreements. But we had positive way of handling situations. We functioned well,” she added.
She also said she does not know Modi as a person. She said BJP allies like TRS, TDP and Shiv Sena are also coming into the well of the house to protest on various issues. “’Acche Din’ will soon be ‘India Shining’,” she said in reference to UPA’s win despite BJP’s 2004 slogan of ‘India Shining’.
Continuing her attack on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, she said judiciary is under turmoil, freedom to differ, eat and marry is under attack and India’s social DNA was being re-engineered.
“Does maximum governance mean minimum truth? Does it mean alternative facts take the place of uncomfortable reality? Take jobs for instance. Everyone knows employment situation is grim but all of a sudden we are told seven and a half million jobs were created in 2017. This claim was widely debunked. But, does it really make a difference? It doesn’t. Because as soon as one myth is demolished another takes it place,” she said.
Gandhi also felt the Congress needs to develop a new style of connecting with people at the organisational level. “We also need to look at a way of how we project our programmes and policies.”