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Shun public bickering, Sonia Gandhi tells Congressmen

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-05-2014 PTI

New Delhi: Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, who was on Saturday re-elected chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), asked partymen not to bicker in public amid a blame game in the party over its worst electoral defeat which has seen Team Rahul Gandhi coming under attack from a number of leaders.

Addressing a meeting of the CPP, Gandhi acknowledged that there was “widespread anger against us which we failed to adequately gauge” and said “we have to individually and collectively draw the appropriate lessons from this unprecedented setback”.

A resolution passed by the CPP reached out to “progressive and secular forces” to present a united opposition and assured other like-minded parties that the Congress will extend its cooperation in this regard.

The resolution came at a time when the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to assume power as the only party in the last 30 years to achieve parliamentary majority on its own, and the Congress’ tally of seats stands reduced to just 44.

The Congress chief, who was made the CPP chief for the fifth time in a row since 1998, asked partymen to avoid “public acrimony”, saying their inputs, experience and assessment of the party’s strengths and weaknesses “rather than public acrimony” will be critical to the exercise to draw the right lessons to put the party back on the rail.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president, was seated on one of the back benches in the Central Hall of Parliament where the CPP meeting took place.

Sonia asked partymen to understand why they failed to gauge the anger of the people against the party and “take necessary corrective measures”.

She said all members of Parliament (MPs) of the party are “pained” about the defeat, and flagged the need to reflect, deliberate and debate more.

Asking partymen to take strength from the fact that the Congress came second with 10.69 crore votes, compared with BJP’s 17.16 crore votes, Sonia said “what we have to do now is to work hard to recapture the larger support base that the Congress has traditionally enjoyed”.

The resolution passed at the CPP meeting said it expresses the hope that “all progressive and secular forces in Parliament will coordinate their strategies effectively so as to present a united and cohesive opposition, which is the life-blood of any democracy”.

Sonia Gandhi’s name for CPP head was proposed by senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge, and seconded by several leaders including, Mohsina Kidwai.

Gandhi was first elected as CPP chairperson on 16 March 1998, at a time when she was not a member of either Houses of Parliament but had assumed the leadership of Congress after Sitaram Kesri was forced to quit in the wake of the party’s defeat in the general election.

The CPP meeting on Saturday greeted and offered its good wishes to the incoming government led by Modi and placed on record its appreciation of the “yeoman services rendered to the country by Manmohan Singh, who provided wise, sober and dignified leadership for a decade”.

After the Congress Working Committee (CWC) rejected the offer of resignations of Sonia and Rahul, the CPP said it was “grateful” to them for their “indefatigable” election campaigns across the country.

“Electoral setbacks cannot obscure their contributions and the CPP resolves to regroup, rebuild and revive under their leadership and regain the confidence and support of the people,” it said.

The Congress president squarely blamed the BJP for “failing” to give support to the government in the last Lok Sabha to pass several crucial Bills.

“I regret to say that the UPA-II government did not get the support of the principal opposition party in passing crucial legislations. In fact, the opposition to some Bills was not based on any principle and argument but simply on cussedness and outright political opportunism”.

She also recalled that the BJP had propounded the “infamous” theory that “obstructing Parliament is a legitimate Parliamentary device”.

Indicating that Congress will play the role of an aggressive opposition, Gandhi said the legislative agenda that the UPA had placed before the 15th Lok Sabha remains pending and “cannot be ignored”.

“We shall wait and see what will be the attitude of the new government to the pending Bills,” she said, adding though the strength of the party in the Lok Sabha might be small, “we are still the largest party in the Rajya Sabha”.

“Together, the CPP is still a formidable group and can function as a formidable opposition. And we can and will work together with like-minded parties to strengthen the watchful role of the parliamentary opposition,” she said.

Gandhi noted that in the opposition, the role of the Congress will be very different from the role it had played while in power.

“Being in the opposition means, more regular attendance, more hours inside the House and more study of subjects. It means asking more questions, raising more issues, initiating more debates and always being the vigilant watchdog, standing up for our record of achievements as well as defending the fundamental values and principles of the Congress,” she said.

In the resolution, the CPP recalled Congress has been responsible and constructive when in opposition.

“It will continue in this tradition even as it resolves to make the incoming government accountable to its pledges.”

In the resolution, the party also resolved to “fight with all the force at its command any attempt to abandon or subvert Constitutional principles and values or any attempt to depart from or dilute policies, programmes and legislations introduced in the past decade to ensure inclusive growth with social justice”.

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