The Congress party on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of spreading the "poison" of communalism and asked party men to fight those out to demolish Jawaharlal Nehru's "liberal India", intensifying the battle over his legacy.
While both the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi did not take the name of Modi, the reference was obvious when they spoke at a party function on the eve of the 125th birth anniversary of Nehru in New Delhi.
Rahul said that "angry" people are nowadays running the country and had a dig at Modi over the "Swachchta Abhiyan" saying "photo opportunities" are galore.
"These days, the foundation of love and brotherhood is being demolished. On one hand houses are being painted and roads are being cleaned. Photo opportunities are happening. Snaps are being taken. On the other hand, poison is being spread. The very foundations are being weakened," Gandhi said.
In her speech made in the presence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former chief minister Shiela Dikshit, Sonia Gandhi asked party men to be united and strengthen the organisations and connect and fight those forces out to demolish Nehru's vision of a liberal India.
"Massive attempts are on to destroy the vision of Nehru, the way he used to look at India. The forces, which are doing this are targeting not only his persona but also his ideology, his vision, his life-long contributions and struggle," she said.
The Congress president said that had Nehru been alive, he would have asked all Congressmen to fight communalism of all hues by becoming a "valiant secular soldier" for protecting the soul of India.
Out of power for the last six months after a crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, the party is utilising the 125th birth anniversary of Nehru to rally round non-NDA parties on a platform raising the pitch of secularism.
It has organised an international meet on November 17 and 18 for which it has not invited Modi, who it accuses of appropriating the legacy of freedom movement leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel.
Sonia extended invitations personally to leaders, including Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee.
Rahul, who repeatedly referred to his pet theme of politics of anger verus politics of love, said that Congress is the only party, which can fight the present dispensation.
The Congress vice president, who was the face for his party's Lok Sabha election campaign, acknowledged "mistakes" by his party.
"I am not saying that Congress has not committed mistakes. We have definitely committed mistakes. But there is no fault with our ideology... Congress is an organisation of love and brotherhood.
"...Today people with anger are running the country. They said do away with English. We should work only in Hindi. Had we done this after independence, our youths would not have been able to go to IITs, IIMs and foreign countries," he said.
Attacking the Modi government he said, "big promises were made and it was claimed that this or that will happen. But nothing of that sort has come out so far. Only photo opportunities are happening. I am fully confident that it is the Congress party, which will once again lead the country.
He recalled a visit to Naini jail in Uttar Pradesh, where his great grandfather was lodged during the freedom movement. Nehru had thanked the Britisher for putting him in the jail because that had helped him get over his anger.
The Congress dig on the sanitation drive of the government has come against the backdrop of the government's plans to organise Nehru's 125th birth anniversary as "bal swachhta varsh" (year of sanitation campaign by children).
Sonia Gandhi reminded Congressmen that the history of Congress is 129-years-old and it had always remained vibrant.
"All kinds of difficulties came during this period but we weathered them. We faced several storms and every crisis gave us new strength. This was because we learnt from our leaders how to face challenges," she said.
Paying glowing tributes to the first prime minister, she said that the whole world was aware of the unparalleled place of Nehru in public life of the country.
"A person with so much power and authority and enjoying such love and trust could have taken the country to any direction. But it was his deep conviction in justice and liberty that he took the country on a path in which institutions were given more importance than an individual. He engaged in a politics, which allowed play to all kinds of thoughts," she said.
"He established scientific institutions without which the Mars Mission today was not possible," Gandhi said.
The Congress president also said that it was the good fortune of the country that after independence it got the visionary and farsighted leadership of Nehru, who had established a number of scientific institutions and created industrial infrastructure and augmented irrigation facilities.
At the function, Dikshit administered an oath to Congress workers in the name of Nehru to commit themselves to the ideals of secularism, pluralism and progressiveness espoused by him.
Thursday's functions marks the beginning of the year-long celebrations of Nehru throughout the country being organised by the Congress party.