At a time when the country's politics is set to change, Sonia Gandhi’s speech didn't reflect her take on the aam aadmi. Once again, it was clear the Congress has lost the narrative, reports Sheela Bhatt from the AICC session at New Delhi's Talkatora Stadium.
In a morning full of political drama at the All India Congress Committee session, party president Sonia Gandhi's speech was completely devoid of any emotional pitch.
Her message to Congressmen was this: “The Lok Sabha election of 2014 will a battle for India”, adding that “secularism is not a political compulsion but a matter of faith for the Congress”.
She said her party will try to save the "age old tradition of living in diversity."
Sonia Gandhi, who joined the Congress in 1997 and became the party president in 1998, has reached a turning point as her son Rahul Gandhi has become party vice president and is taking major decisions.
The year 2014 will change things in her political career too, but on Friday she didn't talk about herself.
At a time like this, when the country's politics is set to change, Sonia Gandhi’s speech didn't reflect her take on the change for the aam aadmi. She didn't make her speech befitting of the historic times the country and her party is undergoing.
She only bashed the "communal forces", played the secular card (yes, it is still the trump card of the Congress) at a time where the rival Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, is exciting the electorate.
She gave no surprises and stuck to routine ideas. Her Hindi script had many glitches (“dat kar”, “ekrupta”, etc) and not flowing smoothly.
When rival parties like the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party are putting their ideas and ideologies in "saral Hindi", she should have spoken giving an emotional touch to the ideas she was expressing.
Once again, it was clear that the Congress has lost the narrative of the aam aadmi.
She spoke strongly against Narendra Modi and the BJP’s “communal, divisive and identity politics” without naming them. But, on balance, her speech with Naehruvian flavour was another predictable one delivered by her many times in the past.
She may have saved the day for her son Rahul Gandhi who will speak at the session at 3.30 pm. It’s likely to be a ‘part two’ of the speech that he delivered at Jaipur in 2013 when he was made vice president of the party.
The chorus of Congressmen demanding Rahul Gandhi be named as the PM candidate is something that the party workers have adapted to. That actually made the Congress session quite enjoyable.
Sonia's speech gave a clear political direction. The Congress will attack Modi and the BJP’s kind of politics. When she said the Congress was “battle ready” she was on the spot. The party has already made a short list of candidates for all the seats it wants to fight minus the seats given to allies.
The main thrust of her talk was that in coming days the country will see a “sharpening conflict of ideologies and clashing visions for the future of India”.
She spoke about her government's achievements in education, building rural connectivity, bridging disparity, giving better minimum support price to farmers and how the Lokpal Bill, Right oo Information Act and direct money transfer is helping people.
She reiterated things that have not been resonating well in the public mind. While talking about corruption she mentioned the Lokpal Bill, but not that the delay in getting it passed wiped out her party in New Delhi.
She talked about RTI which has empowered the common man, but that was the party's plank in 2009.
Without naming Modi she spelt out the “dangers” from him and his politics. She claimed that every big change has been implemented by the Congress government whether in agriculture, technology or industries, adding that the biggest danger to the country is from communal forces and the ideology of the main opposition (BJP).
Talking about Modi without mentioning his name, she said they divide society, spread communalism, spread enmity and talk about unity, but they don't want a plural society.
She took pride that the Congress has never compromised with "communal forces."
“The Congress's biggest identity is its secular nature. Secularism is not its compulsion, it's a matter of faith,” she said.
However, addressing indirectly the pending defeat in the 2014 election, she did say, “We have seen victory, we have suffered defeat. In politics nobody has remained unaffected from it.”
Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi