Sonia hits out at those ‘inventing new past for us’

New Delhi: Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday attacked the Narendra Modi government, saying despite her party getting a huge mandate in 1984, it never created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Without naming the BJP, she said today there are those who are “busy inventing a new past for us”. “Rajiv Gandhi was engaged in preparing for a new future,” she stressed.

Speaking at a function to mark the 75th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi said, “In 1984, he (Rajiv Gandhi) had won by a huge majority, but he did not use that victory to create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation.”

She said: “He (Rajiv Gandhi) did not destroy the freedom of institutions, nor did he try to crush dissent.”

The UPA chairperson said that in 1989, the Congress could not come back with a full majority.

“Rajiv Gandhi accepted that defeat and despite being the largest political party, he did not stake his claim to form the government,” she said, adding he had the moral strength, generosity and honesty.

Sonia Gandhi said: “No one can do this today like Rajiv Gandhi did and Rahul Gandhi has done now”.

She said Rajiv Gandhi kept the interests of the Congress party aside to bring about peace in the North-East. “He took the first step to globalize India’s economy. He knew if India had to achieve special status on the world stage, then it will have to remain self-inclusive. This work cannot be done by boasting, shouting slogans, but by performing actions,” she said.

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She said for Rajiv Gandhi, the past has to be understood in all its complexities “to build pride, not to stoke prejudice, to strengthen social harmony, not fuel antagonism and polarize our society”.

She said the former Prime Minister was proud of our past, but, at the same time he held a firm conviction that India has to be a modern nation anchored in reasons and a scientific temper in which “obscurantism” has no place.

“It was this that made him devote so much of his time in the early years of his tenure to the crafting of the new education policy in 1986. He was accused of being elitist, of not understanding the problems faced by the rural India.

“But today the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are the pride of every single district in our country,” she said recalling some of his works.

She said that Rajiv Gandhi’s political adversaries accused him of being out of touch with reality with his fixation for computers. “Yet it is this magnificent obsession with technology and modernity that has made millions of youth in our country ready to tackle the challenges of the digital era. I believe that his strategic vision laid the foundations for prosperity of our country,” she said.

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She stressed that Rajiv Gandhi’s 75th birth anniversary is not a ritual to be marked, “it is instead an occasion for us to remember him, to understand what he stood for and what he espoused, what he achieved and what he wanted to accomplish”.

“It is an occasion for us individually and collectively to reaffirm our resolve to continue to fulfil the values that had inspired him to stand up and confront the forces that are determined to destroy those values,” she said.

Talking about the electoral failures, she said, “Electoral ups and downs are inevitable. The challenges that our party confronts today are formidable but we must continue our ideological struggle against the forces of divisiveness, the forces that are out to change the very nature of our society, the very idea of India that is enshrined in our Constitution.”

The programme to mark the 75th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister was attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and several other top leaders.

Several party leaders also spoke about the former Prime Minister, highlighting his vision and contributions.

With Rajiv Gandhi’s 75th birth anniversary celebration, the Congress has tried to re-energize its party cadres who have felt demoralised after the drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections this year.

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