Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Saturday alluded to her retirement from politics, saying she was happy that her “innings could conclude with the Bharat Jodo Yatra” which she described as “a turning point” for the party.
Addressing 15,000 delegates on the second day of the party’s three-day brainstorming conclave in Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur, Ms Gandhi said, “What gratifies me most, is that my innings could conclude with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The Yatra has come as a turning point. It has proved that the people of India overwhelmingly want harmony, tolerance and equality.”
“It has renewed the rich legacy of dialogue between our party and the people through mass contact programmes. It has shown us all that the Congress stands with the people and is ready to fight for them,” she said.
“I congratulate all party workers who have worked hard for the Yatra… I especially thank Rahul [Gandhi] ji, whose determination and leadership were crucial in the Yatra’s success,” Ms Gandhi said.
Despite hinting at her retirement, the 76-year-old former Congress chief left people guessing whether she would run for parliament again from Uttar Pradesh’s Raebareli or leave the seat for her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the next Lok Sabha elections.
Calling the current period a “particularly challenging time” for the Congress and the country, Ms Gandhi said, “Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi and the BJP-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) regime has relentlessly captured and subverted every single institution.”
“It ruthlessly silenced any voice of opposition. It has caused economic ruin by favouring a few chosen businessmen at the expense of all others. And most distressingly, it fuels the fires of fear and hatred against fellow Indians,” she said.
“It targeted minorities and ignored crimes and discrimination against them, against women, against Dalits, and against Adivasis. It mocked Gandhi ji and through its words and actions shows contempt for our values and our constitution,” Ms Gandhi said.
Rallying party workers, she said the situation today reminded her of the time when she entered politics. “Then, as now, we faced a difficult struggle ahead. And at this crucial time, each one of us bears a special responsibility towards our party and the country,” Ms Gandhi said.
“The Congress is not just a political party. We are the vehicle through which the people of India fight for liberty, equality, fraternity and justice for all… The path ahead is not easy, but my experience tells me victory will be ours,” she said.
The Congress’s 85th plenary session began a day ago and is expected to take key decisions for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, including tie-ups with other opposition parties.
It is being held in the wake of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, a massive cross-country foot march led by Rahul Gandhi that aimed to rally supporters and address the party’s disconnect with the voters.
On the first day of the session, the Congress Steering Committee decided not to hold elections to the party’s top council, the Working Committee, and authorised the new party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to nominate its members.
After back-to-back election defeats, years of internal wrangling for an overhaul and an exodus of leaders, Sonia Gandhi passed on the reins of the 137-year-old outfit to Mr Kharge, a loyalist, in October. Considered the first family of the party, the Gandhis maintain a firm hold on it.