"This is not just another election to be fought. This is a turning point for India and no one is willing to compromise," said Rahul Gandhi at the AICC meet. | Ravi Chaudhary/EPS
Anointed the campaign chief, a combative Rahul Gandhi sought to enthuse the demoralised Congress cadre for the Lok Sabha polls and attacked Narendra Modi over his 'Congress-free India' pitch and "divisive" politics.
At the day-long AICC session here, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi targeted BJP, with the Congress President saying the country was facing the "biggest threat" from "communal forces and their ideology" which cannot be tolerated.
Rahul accused the BJP of "lighting fires of communal hatred", pitting people against each other and trying to hand over power structure to one man while the party sought support of all like-minded political and social forces to come together at "this critical juncture".
In his 45-minute spirited address, which was repeatedly cheered by delegates from across the country, he sought to widen the party's reach as he asserted that he would fight for the cause of the youth, women, downtrodden sections and a new constituency of people who have risen above the poverty line and are aspiring to be part of the middle class.
He gave indications of changing the style of functioning in the party, which he had promised after the drubbing in Assembly polls, by ensuring larger participation of people, including women in decision-making like candidate selection.
He said tickets will not be given to party hoppers but to those who have "Congress in their blood" and candidates for 15 Lok Sabha seats will be chosen on the basis of feedback from local units, an experiment which will be expanded if it works.
Acknowledging that Congress has a "tough battle" ahead, Rahul said, "This is not just another turn in the history of India, another election to be fought, won or lost. This is a turning point in our nation's journey. Nobody is in the mood to accept less than their full and complete right. No one is ready to compromise anymore.....
"Either we wake up to their aspirations, or we have no business to claim that we represent them. The change that is taking place around us is unstoppable. The imperative before us not whether to change but when and how to change."
Giving a battle cry for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Rahul said the Congress is ready for the tough challenge ahead and "we will not stop till the battle is won".
In a bid to lift the morale of the cadre, he said howsoever dark the night may be and tough the battle may be, the Congress will go in as "warrior" with "head high" and "not lose courage."
Tearing into BJP and its PM candidate Modi for his 'Congress-free India' campaign, he said Congress is a "thought" which cannot be erased. "Whoever has tried to do it, has himself got destroyed".
Sonia Gandhi asked the party workers not to lose heart after the recent drubbing in assembly elections, saying victory and defeat are inescapable in politics and Congress always has the resilience to bounce back by fighting the challenges strongly.
"Congress has faced many difficult times in the past, much tougher than today, but we have never lost heart," he said.
Rahul and Sonia Gandhi also put an end to the debate over projecting him as the Prime Ministerial candidate, saying the party has the tradition of PM being elected by the MPs.
In a bid to lift the morale of the cadre, he said however dark the night may be and tough the battle may be, the Congress will go in as "warrior" with "head high" and "not lose courage."
Rahul articulated worries over the issues of corruption and price rise and said the Congress and the Manmohan Singh government is determined to address these.
In a virtual directive, Rahul asked the government to raise the annual cap of subsidised LPG cylinders from 9 to 12, a point that was lustily cheered by the audience.
Oil and Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily immediately announced that the issue will go to the Cabinet and a decision will be taken to implement it.