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India’s Congress party signals challenge for 2019 general elections

Positioning himself as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal challenger is newly appointed Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi.

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Updated: March 19, 2018

India’s Congress party is positioning itself to challenge for the 2019 general elections at its 84th plenary session that ended in New Delhi on March 18.

In an aggressive speech at the three-day plenary, the party’s new chief Rahul Gandhi promised to throw out the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which he said is corrupt and drunk on power – in the upcoming elections.

Positioning himself as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal challenger, Gandhi said the Congress will build a team of talented youngsters who will show “how to fight and win elections”. The party said that alleviating the plight of farmers and fighting unemployment will be its two main points of contention.

“In the next six-seven months, we need to have strict discipline. There will be some hurdles but let us come together and fight [for] these elections. In 2019, the Congress workers will show the country how the Congress party fights elections and wins elections,” Gandhi said at the plenary, the highest decision-making body of the party.

He promised to break the “walls” that exist between party workers and senior leadership and the between the youth and the political systems.

“Some of you (party members) may not like what I am going to say but I will have to say it. This organization (Congress) needs to change. How to change it I will tell you. The worker sitting in the last row has the energy to change the nation but there is a wall standing between them and our leaders. My first job is to break that wall,” he said.

The party passed a unanimous resolution to empower Gandhi to choose members of the new Congress Working Committee (CWC) instead of the long-standing tradition of electing members to the top body.

The new CWC, which is likely to have a lot of young faces, will be handpicked by Gandhi. Some of these young leaders spoke at the plenary session.

The plenary passed four resolutions on politics, economy, foreign policy and agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation. It also called for a “common workable programme” with like-minded parties in the 2019 polls, demanded a return to paper ballots and rejected the idea of simultaneous polls to the federal parliament and state assemblies.

Laying out his vision for India, Gandhi said the party needs to embrace change. “There are two visions globally accepted, US and Russian, in 10 years I want to see an Indian vision being accepted and talked about globally. We will compete with love and compassion, not with violence and anger,” he said.

He admitted that his party “did not stand up to the expectations of the country and the people felt let down by us.”

He launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “What does Modi actually mean? The name Modi symbolizes the collusion between India’s biggest crony capitalists and the prime minister of India.”

Gandhi’s mother, Sonia, who headed the Congress for a record tenure before she stepped down last year, accused the Narendra Modi government of using “all tricks in the trade” to wipe out the party.

“In the last four years, this arrogant and power-drunk government has left no stone unturned to destroy the Congress. They have used every trick in the trade, but Congress has neither succumbed before this arrogance of power nor will it succumb in future,” she said.

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Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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