NEW DELHI: Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi got a massive poll mandate in 1984, but did not use it to create an atmosphere of fear, threaten and scare people or destroy institutions, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Thursday, in an apparent swipe at the Modi government.
Addressing an event marking Rajiv Gandhi's 75th birth anniversary, she also said the challenges facing the Congress were formidable, but it must continue with its ideological struggle against divisive forces.
"In 1984, he (Rajiv Gandhi) won an unprecedented mandate, but did not use that power to create an atmosphere of fear or threaten and scare," Sonia Gandhi said.
The former prime minister did not use that power to destroy the independence of institutions, trample on divergent views and create dangers for democratic traditions, she said in her first public address after taking over as the Congress's interim president earlier this month.
Her remarks assume significance as they come after senior Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI in connection with the INX Media case, with the grand old party accusing the government of using central agencies such as the CBI and the ED as personal "revenge-seeking departments".
In 1989, the Congress did not get a majority on its own, so he (Rajiv Gandhi) politely accepted the mandate of the people. I want to tell the present generation that despite (Congress) being the biggest political party at the time, he did not lay claim to power. This was because his inner moral force and honesty did not allow him to do so," Sonia Gandhi said.
She asserted that her husband's 75th birth anniversary was not just a ritual being marked by the Congress, but an occasion to remember him, understand what he stood for and espoused, what he achieved and what he wanted to accomplish, had destiny been "kinder" to him.
"It is an occasion for us individually and collectively to reaffirm our resolve to continue to uphold the values that inspired him, to stand up and confront the forces that are determined to destroy those values," the UPA chairperson said.
"Electoral ups and downs are inevitable, the challenges our party confront today are formidable, but what must continue is our ideological struggle against the forces of divisiveness, forces that are out to change the very nature of our society, the very idea of India as enshrined in our Constitution," she said.
She added that standing up for the values that were dear to Rajiv Gandhi would be the best tribute to him on his 75th birth anniversary.
Several Congress leaders also spoke at the event held at the KD Jadhav indoor stadium and a cultural programme was also organised to mark the former prime minister's 75th birth anniversary, which was on August 20.
Sonia Gandhi took over as the Congress's interim chief on August 10 from her son Rahul Gandhi, who resigned after the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha polls held in April-May.