New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in his address at the 132nd Foundation Day of the party on Wednesday said that the Congress stood for the common people of the country. In his speech, the Gandhi scion kept up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s demonetisation policy, describing the move as “hurting people”.
Gandhi said that it was also a moment for the Congress to look back at the leaders and workers who have worked for the party through the years and that the party’s ideology was that of inclusion where everyone’s view is heard.
“I would first want to talk about what is the relationship of the people of the country with the Congress party. It is that of a saanjhe dard or that of sharing of emotions. This idea says that you are not alone. They gave a name to that idea and called it Congress. My point of view is not the only point of you and your opinion matters too,” Gandhi told party workers and leaders at the 132nd Foundation Day on Wednesday.
Speaking on demonetisation, Gandhi said: “The Prime Minister said he is doing a yagya and in this it is the common people who are being sacrificed. Demonetisation is being done for the benefit of just 50 families, for the 1% super rich … the people are asking questions but the Prime Minister does not want to answer them.”
Gandhi presided over the function which was attended by senior party leaders at 24 Akbar Road, its official headquarters.
With the 30 December deadline of deposting banned old Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes approaching, the Congress on Wednesday released a charter of demands on demonetisation. Gandhi addressed a press conference in the national capital and put forth the demands being made by the party.
Gandhi said that the government needs to come up with ways to provide compensation to people for the losses they have suffered due to demonetisation.
The Congress’s charter demands that the cap on withdrawal limits should be lifted, farmers’ loan should be waived off, women from BPL (below poverty line) families should get Rs25,000 in their bank accounts, small traders and businessmen who have been hit by sales tax should get 50% off and wages of MGNREGA labourers should be doubled.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about blackmoney and so he should declare how much money was received by the government (since 8 November). The list of blackmoney hoarders in Swiss Bank was handed over to the government and so Modi should reply when that list will be tabled in the Parliament,” Gandhi told reporters while addressing the press conference.
However, the 132nd Foundation Day marks a moment of introspection for the party, which has seen an erosion in its electoral support and political dominance in the past few years.
Having ruled at the Centre for decades, the Congress faced a humiliating defeat in the 16th general elections in 2014. Following that drubbing, the Congress has not won any state assembly elections ever since except Bihar where it is a junior partner in an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U).
Wednesday’s event is also significant because its a rare Foundation Day of the party where its vice-president Rahul Gandhi presided over the function, unfurled the flag at party’s official headquarters, 24 Akbar Road, and addressed party workers and leaders.
There has been a growing demand within the party for the Gandhi scion to succeed his mother, Sonia Gandhi, as the party president.
The 132nd Foundation Day comes in the backdrop of party’s apex decision-making body nominated him to the top post, but subject to the official endorsement of Sonia Gandhi last month.
The occasion also comes at a time when Rahul Gandhi is attempting to assert himself as the leader of the opposition parties, particularly outside Parliament.
On Tuesday, an opposition meet on the issue of demonetisation led by him fizzled out as key opposition parties like the Left Parties, the JD(U), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) stayed away from it.
Congress’s Foundation Day is being celebrated across all the state units of the party in the country. The party was founded on 28 December 1885, when it held its first session—attended by 72 delegates in Mumbai’s Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College under W.C. Bonnerjee’s presidentship.