By M H Ahssan | INN Live
A debilitating defeat in the Assembly elections that were widely pegged as the semi final to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the loss of Delhi after 15 years in power -- if there was ever a time for a rousing speech to Congressmen, this was it.
And when it came to the crunch, Congress president Sonia Gandhi delivered, making a powerful pitch at the AICC session in Delhi's Talkatora stadium on Friday morning. Victory and defeat are inevitable in politics, but every major change in the country has been at the behest of the Congress party, she told her forces, "do not forget that for even a moment".
Just when it was appearing that the Congress was preparing the ground for a better-timed launch for Rahul in 2016 or 2019 -- perhaps if the AAP denies the NDA an outright win as it did the BJP in the Delhi Assembly election, and a Third Front of some manner is cobbled together -- the Congress president's speech suggested that the party has not given up just yet.
The focus on the Congress's secular credentials was telling -- with the AAP government in Delhi looking to be in agonising chaos, that anybody-but-Modi vote may be worth a fighting chance. "What is the way adopted by our chief political rival?" Sonia asked, having switched to Hindi midway through her speech. "Their way is to divide communities, to spread disharmony. There is a hidden face behind that mask of empathy."
No electoral exigencies, she continued, would hamper the Congress party's commitment to secularism. She also addressed the fact that morale of party men is perhaps at one of its lowest ebbs. "The Congress has faced tougher times than today, we have never lost heart, we have remained resilient. We have stayed committed to our vision, our values, our beliefs."
As a commander's speech to a down-and-almost-out force, it was everything it should have been, partly inspirational, partly a set of street-savvy answers to campaigning challenges in the face of a deep anti-incumbency and partly preparation for a longer battle, one that will be fought until 2016, perhaps.
Or 2019. Will that do it for Congress workers faced with the ground reality of a massive anti-incumbency wave? Perhaps not, but Sonia had some suggestions, also likely to be the party's big poll plank in coming weeks. The Congress can take credit for the impressive economic growth, and there are strategies to tackle disparity, she said, listing the MGNREGA, the Food Security Act, the Land Acquisition Bill, the rising procurement prices for wheat and rice and the Adhaar scheme that when fully operational will end crruption in the delivery of subsidies, pensions, wages and government benefits.
On the clamour to end corruption, she had this to say: "The Congress is the party that enacted the Right to Information law, the "single most important reason for citizens to feel empowered to fight corruption". The Congress president didn't attempt to deny the wave of discontent with the UPA. "A hopeful new generation wants to be heard... be humble with those seeking change," she said. "But do not forget for a second that all major changes in the country have come through the Congress party."
She seemed to candidly tackle the prospect of another defeat too, possibly the most demoralising for Congress workers. Whether we win or lose, our party is the only one present in every village, every street. We have seen ups and downs, victory and defeat -- these are inevitable in politics. But I hope that in coming days our resolve to meet these challenges grows. We will win this struggle," she said.
About the Author: M H Ahssan is Editor in Chief of INN Live Network. You can follow him on Twitter (@inn_live) or ‘Like’ them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/innlive)