Action, not mere words is what the Congress party needs to take on the Modi government and its attempt to change the very idea of India. There have been so many issues in the last three years of Modi rule that deserved to be vehemently opposed by the grand old party, but the country hardly heard a whimper.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday attacked the Modi dispensation, voicing grave concern over a “rise in lynch mobs” and their ideological affinity to the ruling establishment. She also accused the regime of stifling dissent.
Alleging that there was a brazen campaign to straitjacket the whole country into a regressive and narrow-minded world view, she asked the Congress party to protect the essence and idea of India which she said the government was “seeking to extinguish”.
Gandhi was addressing a meeting of the Congress Working Committee where the government’s demonetisation decision came under severe attack from her and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The day-long meeting was called to discuss the political situation in the country, upcoming Presidential election, the Kashmir crisis besides Congress organisational polls.
“Divisive issues are being whipped up, and there is an assault on the livelihood and food habits of those who follow different tenets and beliefs. This government is using the power of the state to stifle voices that express different thoughts and ideas, or speak out for alternative policies and philosophies.
“Whether it is politicians, institutions, students, civil society or the media, there is growing intolerance and active persecution of divergent voices in blatant disregard of the law of the land,” she said.
Gandhi said it was a matter of grave concern that there had been a rise in the lynch mobs and there existed a close ideological affinity between these mobs and the ruling establishment.
“The Modi government has just completed three years in office. Where there was harmony, there is discord. Where there was tolerance, there is provocation. Where there was relative calm, as in Kashmir, there is growing confrontation, tension and fear. Where there was economic potential, there is stagnation. Where there was rich diversity, there is a brazen campaign to straitjacket the whole country into a regressive and narrow-minded world view.”
She also accused the government of making systematic attempts to blunt tools of accountability, undermine the judiciary and suppress dissent which served its larger purpose of concealing corruption.
“Cronies and individuals close to the establishment have either seen dramatic increase in wealth and influence in the last three years or have escaped the wrath of law and managed to flee the country,” she said.
The Jammu and Kashmir crisis, Gandhi said, has come to represent the colossal failure of the Modi government.
“We are facing a rise in cross-border terrorism. The insensitive handling of the situation by both the state and central governments is systematically alienating and antagonizing the local population, especially the youth. A divisive agenda is being followed which has undone the years of goodwill and progress,” she said.
The Congress President asked the government to address the crisis, correct its flawed approach and restore normalcy to regain the trust of the people of the troubled state.
Referring to the recent assembly elections, she said the polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand held lessons for the Congress. While with an effective leadership, the party was able to defeat the NDA in Punjab, in Manipur and Goa it failed to convert winning numbers in forming a government.
“This outcome reminds us that the BJP will use their enormous resources and muscle power to steal mandates from us, just as they did in Arunachal Pradesh and earlier in Uttarakhand. We cannot let this happen again.”
She also referred to the coming Presidential and Vice Presidential elections and said in times such as these it was even more essential that those occupying this august office protect the constitution.
Gandhi called the November 8 demonetisation a “disaster” and said the government’s experiments and policies were characterised by poor planning and shoddy implementation.
“If we just look at demonetisation, which was touted as a great success, till today the government refuses to disclose how much of the demonetised currency in circulation was actually returned to the banks.”
Intervening in the discussion, Manmohan Singh said Gross Value Added (GVA), a true sub-measure of economic activity, had experienced a steep and sustained fall.
He said the “most worrisome” aspect of demonetisation was the impact on jobs. “Jobs have been extremely hard to come by. The construction industry — one of the largest employment generators in the country — has suffered a contraction. This implies loss of millions of jobs.”
Gandhi said the ‘Make in India’ scheme of the government has failed to create jobs or attract investment and unemployment was rampant.
“Farmers throughout the country are in severe distress, forcing them to commit suicide. Manifesto promises that should have been fulfilled in 2019 are now being shifted to 2022,” she said.
Gandhi said whatever progress the government has scored has come from programmes and projects that were started by the UPA government.
“But even there, they have abandoned the social welfare underpinning of all that we had sought to achieve and failed to provide any benefit to the vast majority of the poor and deprived.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad briefed reporters after the CWC meeting and accused the Modi government of “crushing voices of dissent”.
He attacked the government over its performance in the last three years, saying it was a “hero on TV and zero on the ground”.
The Congress President accused the state and central governments of “insensitive handling” of the situation in Kashmir which was “systematically alienating and antagonising the local population, especially the youths”.
“A large number of jawans (soldiers and troopers) and civilians have lost their lives or have been injured, young people have even been blinded.”
Gandhi said it was imperative for the government to address the crisis and that it “corrects its flawed approach, works in earnest to rebuild and restore normalcy to regain the trust of the people”.
She said a small team of Congress leaders led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been formed to keep abreast of the situation in Kashmir. (IANS)