Seeking to dispel the demoralisation in Congress in the wake of recent electoral debacle, a combative Rahul Gandhi today mounted a blistering attack on Narendra Modi saying those dreaming about Congress-free India will themselves be destroyed.
Joining his mother Sonia Gandhi, Rahul accused the BJP of lighting fires of communal hatred and setting people against each other as the party sought support of all like-minded political and social forces to come together at "this critical juncture".
In his 45-minute spirited address at the AICC session in New Delhi, which was repeatedly cheered by delegates from across the country, the Congress Vice President and Sonia Gandhi put an end to the debate over projecting him as the prime ministerial candidate, saying the party has the tradition of PM being elected by the MPs.
Giving a battle cry for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Rahul said the Congress is ready for the tough challenge ahead and "we will not stop till the battle is won".
Tearing into BJP and its PM candidate Modi for his 'Congress-free India' campaign, he said Congress is a "thought" which cannot be erased. "Whoever has tried to do it, has himself got destroyed".
Seeking to widen the party's reach, he focussed on issues related to the youth, women, downtrodden sections and a new constituency of people who have risen above the poverty line and are aspiring to be part of the middle class, saying he would fight for their cause.
In a virtual directive, Rahul asked the government to raise the annual cap of subsidised LPG cylinders from 9 to 12, a point that was lustily cheered by the audience.
In a bid to lift the morale of the cadre, he said however dark the night may be and tough the battle may be, the Congress will go in as "warrior" with "head high" and "not lose courage."
Setting new norms for ticket distribution, Rahul, who will lead the Congress campaign, said party hoppers will not be given tickets but will go to those who have "Congress in their blood".
Apparently taking a leaf out of Aam Aadmi Party's strategy, he said tickets for 15 Lok Sabha seats will be given on the basis of feedback from local units and if the experiment works, it will be expanded to legislatures.
Singling out Modi without taking his name, Rahul said, "democracy is not rule by dictates, not rule by one man" but by empowered elected representatives.
He accused the BJP of disrupting Parliament, year after year, day after day, for the last 10 years and preventing the government from enacting crucial laws.
Setting the agenda for the next three months, he said the government ensure passage of six anti-corruption bills, which will ensure punishment for the guilty and protect the honest.
Referring to the Lok Sabha polls, he said, "It is not just another election, it is a turning point in our nation's journey".
He said the question now was not whether the party should change but when and how. "The change around us is unstoppable," he said, adding the Congress is already responding to the increasing demand for change.
"Unlike others, we do not respond by complaining but solving issues. Unlike others, we do not respond by blocking Parliament day after day, year after year. Unlike others, we do not respond by turning people against people and by lighting fires of communal hatred. We do not respond by handing over the structure of democracy to one person," the Congress Vice President.
"Congress responds by democracy," he added.
Sonia Gandhi also made a scathing attack on the BJP, warning that the country faces the biggest threat from communal forces and their ideology.
Apparently referring to the recent drubbing in the assembly polls, she said there might be "some shortcomings" in meeting the hopes and expectations of the common people and requested all to "be a little soft" towards her party in view of the slew of programmes and policies implemented by the UPA government.
The AICC resolution's phraseology was almost similar to the one adopted by the Congress at the Shimla Conclave in 2003 when the party shed its reservation to coalition politics. Congress had then called for unity of secular forces.
Asking the party workers not to lose heart after the recent drubbing in assembly elections, Gandhi said that victory and defeat are inescapable in politics and Congress always has the resilience to bounce back by fighting the challenges strongly.
"Congress has faced many difficult times in the past, much tougher than today, but we have never lost heart," she said signalling that the party was battle ready for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Manmohan Singh, who is at the fag end of his Prime Ministership, was praised by Sonia as well as Rahul.
He, however, rued that his government did not get the "credit it deserves" even though the country has seen the average growth of 7.9 per cent over the last nine years despite two bouts of global recession and taken a slew of initiatives in the social sectors like health care and education.
At the same time, he admitted that the growth rate had slowed down because clearances were not granted to infrastructure projects for the fear of CAG and CVC scrutiny.
He asked the people to judge the record of his government while closely scrutinising that of opposition governments.
Rahul acknowledged that the opposition marketed its wares well and made a veiled attack on Aam Aadmi Party in this regard.
"They are good in selling combs to the bald. Some new people have come, who have already started giving hair cut," he said, evoking laughter all around.
The omnibus resolution, which was adopted by raising of hands by the delegates, said, "the recent political setbacks are an important wake up call, and if anything, they should motivate us to work harder, enhancing the connect with every Indian."
Rahul, while talking about empowerment of people including the elected representatives, talked about concerns over price rise and corruption.
The AICC resolution said the war against price rise will continue to remain the overriding policy priority of the Congress party. "The Congress is deeply aware that the scourge of corruption affects the life of every Indian and the poor carry its greatest burden."