Lamenting that Congress lost in the Lok Sabha polls despite doing “so much”, Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday asserted that her party will stage a comeback as she attacked BJP, saying it had shown “false dreams” and people got caught in the “trap”.
She targetted the Narendra Modi government, accusing it of copying the schemes and programmes of the UPA dispensation and taking credit for the same.
Addressing a convention of ‘Mahila Congress’ in New Delhi, Sonia along with Rahul Gandhi sought to reach out to women by promising a larger electoral role for them at all levels and making a strong pitch for reservation for them in Parliament and state Assemblies.
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They told the convention organised on the occasion of 70th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that women members of the Congress should become a “tsunami” and contribute actively in the battle between ideologies.
“We had done so much. Still some people laid a trap and people got caught in it. Our work, our achievements got ignored and those showing false dreams marched ahead,” she said, targeting BJP as she looked back at the Lok Sabha polls.
To buttress her point about performance of the previous Congress-led government, she listed a number of measures initiated for women empowerment and other reforms.
Targeting the Modi dispensation, Sonia said, “those who have come in government today are showing an altogether different picture to the nation in accordance with their habit. They are implementing as their own schemes and plans, which were luanched by Congress.”
At the same time, the Congress chief expressed confidence about staging a comeback. “May be the path of our struggle is a bit longer and we may have to work a little more. But if all of us work hard and do it together, the day is not far when Congress will regain its peak.”
This was the first such party convention since the Lok Sabha polls in which Congress only got 44 seats.
Addressing the “Sankalp Diwas” convention, Sonia said her party will put “full pressure” on the NDA government to pass the Women Reservation bill as despite being in Opposition her party cannot withdraw from its committment on the issue.
Rahul, the party Vice President, asked women to join the party in large numbers to strengthen it in the “battle of ideologies” after the formation of NDA government at Centre.
While Sonia talked the measures intiated for empowering women by Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul promised “Tsunami” of measures to empower women within organization as it urged them to join the party in large numbers in the “ideological battle” ahead.
“The way Tsunami had come, a Tsunami of Mahila Congress is also to come in Congress. Fill Congress with the strength of women and I will field you from wherever you can fight-be it panchayat, assembly or Parliamentary elections,” the Congress Vice President said.
Seeking to draw a contrast between the ideologies of Congress and BJP in respect to women’s empowerment, Rahul said, “A government has been formed here. This is a battle of ideologies. This is a battle of the thought process.
“In their (BJP) thinking, the women should be worshipped. Goddesses should be worshipped but women should not be empowered. In their view, women should not come out of their homes.
“Our thinking is that they should come out of their homes, run businesses. We want their empowerment…you have to fight not only a battle of power but a battle of idelogies.”
He said women are suppressed everywhere — at home, at work place and outside — and this situation can be addressed only by change of thinking and not merely by laws and police.
He narrated an incident of Uttar Pradesh where he had seen in the night a man dragging his wife and beating her up for not cooking meal properly.
“The same person calls a woman mother and sister and worships her in the form of a Goddess and then beats his wife. You have to change this,” he said.
Referring to rape incidents, he said, “prominent people say ‘shame shame’ but “Law and police cannot check it. Only women can do it. Do not leave it to the men (to address this problem)”.
Sonia, who spoke earlier, said that women empowerment was one of the two priorities of late Rajiv Gandhi, the other being taking the country into the 21st century.
She said Rajiv used to say that no country can move forward by ignoring half of its population, she said.
Listing a number of steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi for women empowerment including reservation for them in panchayats and setting up of a national commission for women, the Congress chief said that the late Prime Minister also wanted that women should get representation in Parliament and Assemblies.
Noting that UPA government took up the issue when it came to power in 2004 and ensured passage of the measure in Rajya Sabha, she said, “Unfortunately the bill could not get passed in Lok Sabha because of some political parties.”
“Today, we are in opposition but Congress will not withdraw from its commitment to women’s reservation and we will build full pressure on the NDA government to pass the bill as soon as possible,” she said.
The 18-year journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill has been marked by high drama and roadblocks in each outing in Parliament before the historic measure cleared the first legislative hurdle in March 2010 when Rajya Sabha passed it during a sitting which saw marshals being used.
The bill seeks to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in Parliament and legislative Assemblies for women. Observing that victory and defeat were part of life, she said, “the real thing is that one should stick to principles and Congress has never sacrificed its rinciples for power… We do not have to leave any stone unturned in bringing back the glory (aan, baan aur shaan) of Congress”.
She asked women congress workers to raise the issues of women’s exploitation in a big way and help the victims in getting justice from police stations and courts.
Regretting that incidents of female foeticide, domestic violence and rape “make our head hang in shame”, she said, “we have to raise our voice against such crimes.