The Central government led by Narendra Modi is handing over the country’s wealth to the Adani Group, in the same way that the British East India Company had taken it away from India, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said while addressing his party’s 85th plenary session on Sunday.
Warning that ‘history is repeating itself’, Mr. Gandhi said that “Modi ji and Adani ji are one” and that was why the Opposition was not allowed to ask questions about business tycoon Gautam Adani in Parliament. He then asserted that he would continue to ask question about Mr. Adani until the truth came out.
The former Congress chief also urged the party leadership to formulate a new plan to carry forward the “ tapasya (penance)“ undertaken through the Bharat Jodo Yatra, indicating that another yatra could be on the cards, along the east-west route this time.
Rahul too talked of his Yatra “breathing life” into the party and its cadre and asked the leadership to draw up more arduous programmes so that the momentum — “tapasya” in his words — is not broken.
Talking about the Jammu & Kashmir leg of the BJY, the Congress leader said that the yatra had made Kashmiri youth carry the national flag, even in terrorism-infested districts like Pulwama and Anantnag.
“I heard the Prime Minister say in Parliament that he had also hoisted the national flag in Lal Chowk. India’s Prime Minister didn’t understand the difference. Narendra Modi ji along with 15-20 BJP people hoisted the flag. Bharat Jodo Yatra made lakhs of Kashmiri youth hoist the tricolour,” he said.
Later, Jairam Ramesh told PTI that the Congress was considering an east to west yatra from Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh) to Porbandar (Gujarat), most likely before June or November, with a format different from the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
It may not have as elaborate an infrastructure or as many yatris or be as long in duration, he said. Taking into account jungles and rivers along the route, Ramesh said: “It would be a multi-modal yatra, but mostly it would be a padyatra.”
Another signal from the plenary was that the Congress would build its own nationalism narrative. In the context of the Chinese incursions, one resolution passed at the plenary asked the government to take “any and all measures to defend the territorial integrity of India”. In 2019 too, China was a campaign issue in the context of the Doklam clash.
The other slogans too remain the same as in 2019 – targeting the BJP’s “attempt to subvert the Constitution” and “attack on independent institutions”, and raising bread-and-butter issues like unemployment and price rise.
A declaration passed at the plenary said the time was ripe for a “new vision” to empower “the nation’s producers”, reboot the economy, revive MSMEs, “drastically simplify the GST”, specifically for the benefit of small businesses and traders, and to “safeguard farmers” through measures such as debt relief and legally guaranteed MSP.
The conclave gave a message to the Opposition parties as well — that the Congress is the only party that has “never compromised with the BJP”, and that it was “prepared to work with like-minded political parties on the basis of a common, constructive programme to preserve and protect the Constitution” and address the three main challenges of “growing economic inequality, intensifying social polarisation and deepening political dictatorship”.
However, the details of how the Congress will go about instilling confidence in other parties to rally under its leadership and in people to vote for it remain unclear. The takeaways were basically that it is banking on its old promises, and hoping that the momentum created by the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Adani issue will yield electoral dividends.
Not just Rahul, every leader who spoke at the plenary mentioned the Adani controversy and the Yatra “success”.
In his concluding address, Mallikarjun Kharge said: “Rahul Gandhi has indicated that the Congress party, its leadership, workers, youth, women… all should unite and try to search for the truth. How and through what means did Adani become so wealthy, he said we will fight for that. We are with him, will fight with him and stand with him. We will take this issue to the entire country.”
He said the party had united to make the Yatra a success. “It is the responsibility of all of us to build on the momentum set by Rahul Gandhi by walking on rocky surfaces,” Kharge said.
Rahul asked Kharge and the leadership to prepare a plan of action. “We are a party of tapasya. You saw how a small tapasya for four months has injected life into the party, its cadres and the country. Tapasya band nahin honi chahiye (This should not stop). The programmes should continue… Every Congress worker and leader should participate and programmes should be arduous… Let there be a programme and we will all shed blood and sweat for the country. I can guarantee that the moment the Congress stands up, the country will join,” he said.
However, the party realises that it will have to win some of the Assembly elections this year to set the mood for the Lok Sabha battle next year. In a reference to that, the Raipur declaration said “party workers and leaders must work with discipline, solidarity and complete unity to ensure our victory (as) the results of these elections will set the tone for the all-important 2024 Lok Sabha election”.