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Rahul Gandhi takes charge as Congress president

Rahul Gandhi takes charge as Congress president
December 16
07:32 2017

NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi today took charge as the president of Congress in the presence of the 132-year-old party’s top brass and his family members.

The Congress’ central election authority (CEA) handed him over the certificate of his elevation to the top post during a grand event held at the lawns of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters here.

47-year-old Rahul Gandhi was handed over the certificate in the presence of his mother and predecessor Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior party leaders.

While handing over the certificate, CEA chairman Mullappally Ramachandran termed the moment as “historic”.

There was chaos outside the AICC headquarters where the Congress workers gathered in large numbers for the event, making it difficult even for the senior party leaders to enter the venue.

Meanwhile, parts of Lutyens’ Delhi were dotted with posters hailing Rahul Gandhi’s ascension with some of them describing the development as the beginning of a New India.

Rahul Gandhi succeeds Sonia Gandhi, who led the party for the last 19 years.

Rahul Gandhi entered electoral politics in 2004. He was appointed as the party general secretary in 2007 and was elevated as its vice president in January 2013.

Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Gandhi said the Congress will meet any challenge with love and affection.
“Like many Indians across the country, I am an idealist,” he began in English. “But many of us are disillusioned with what we see in politics today. It is devoid of kindness and truth. Today politics is used to crush people, not lift them. Politics belongs to the people.

“The moment you challenge the structure of power to stand with the power, you are attacked. To weaken you, they lie and distort. The Congress had taken the country to the 21st century but our Prime Minister is taking us back. We are now being told only one man is the voice of reason – that everything is subservient to him. Our foreign policy is in tatters so that one man can be strong.

“They want to weaken us but they can do that only if we back down. Stand up to them. We at the Congress promise that we will defend the voice of every Indian. We will never allow silencing the voice of every Indian. I want the Congress party to become an instrument of dialogue for all Indians.

“I’d like to speak a bit in Hindi now,” he says before switching to Hindi as the uncharacteristically silent crowd begins to cheer. Once you start a fire, it is very difficult to contain, he says, pointing at the firecrackers outside. This is what we have been trying to explain to the BJP, he adds.

“I want to tell every Congress worker this – you are my family.” He invited the youth to come forth and build an India with love and kindness. My responsibility is to protect your voice,” he said.

Switching to English, he said, “Congress is an ancient idea. BJP would like you to believe their idea is the oldest, this is not true. We consider the BJP our brothers and sisters, though we don’t agree with them.

We do not fight hate with hate. They crush voices, but we allow the most vulnerable to sing. Congress has always and will always meet any challenge with love and affection. It is with utmost humility that I accept this position.”

The ceremony winds up with the National Anthem.

Speaking earlier, Sonia Gandhi said, “Our government represented every section.”

“Twenty years ago when you elected me and I was addressing you, I was nervous and scared. How would I handle this institution? I wondered. Until then my relation to politics was a personal one because of my marriage with Rajiv ji,” she said.

Reminiscing the old days, Ms. Gandhi said that she married into a “revolutionary” family. “Indira ji sacrificed family for nation. She taught me the basic values that made the Constitution.

When she was assassinated, I felt like my mother was gone. Those days I wanted to keep my husband and children away from politics. My husband was given the onerous responsibility to lead the nation. But then, my husband was killed and I lost my anchor – it took me time to stabilize after that.”

But then when I saw the Congress becoming weak, I took up the responsibility, she says. “I thought that may Indira ji and my husband would have felt bad if I did not do so. When I took over, we had 3 States and was far away from Centre. Whatever we have achieved, it was not the work of one person but the effort of all of you. We went on to form State government in over two dozen States – we did exemplary work.

“Dr. Singh did great work and our government represented every section and worked for every section. Since 2014, we are again in the opposition and there are huge challenges before us. We won’t get scared and won’t bow down…we won’t back off from protecting the values of the Constitution. Power is not our aim but the country is our aim.

“These days, every day there is an assault on the fundamental values, an assault on free speech, an atmosphere of fear… Congress needs to introspect. If we don’t do that, we can’t represent the ‘aam aadmi’.

“India is a country of youth. I am sure we will have a new energy.

“Rahul is my son and not proper for me to praise him. But I have to say, from his childhood, he has faced the brunt of violence and since he came into politics he has been facing vicious personal attacks too. I am proud of his patience and I am sure he will lead you with pride and intelligence.

“Twenty years is like a lifetime. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and affection. Jai Hind.”

Rahul Gandhi hugged his mother as she completed her speech and handed over the stage to him.
Firecrackers interrupted Sonia Gandhi’s address
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “This is a ‘historic’ occasion and I can’t help getting emotional.’
“As the Prime Minister for 10 years, I had the privilege of the guidance of Sonia Gandhi and we took some historic decisions. The average growth rate was 7.8% per annum… we lifted 140 million from poverty,” he said. “I salute Soniaji for the magnificent leadership she has provided through the years.”
“Rahul just has been trained for a long period and brings to this office a new sense of dedication and commitment, with courage and humility”, he said.

“He is taking over at a time when there are disturbing trends in our politics. An academic said that the politics of fear will take over politics of hope. Rahul ji, we depend on you to keep the politics of hope. Our party will scale new heights and may your path be blessed”, he adds.

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