Cadre First, Leaders Later: Rahul at Congress Plenary Session

The Congress hinted at a possible alliance with “like-minded parties” ahead of the 2019 general elections. 

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Steering Committee Meets Ahead of Congress Plenary Session

Rahul Gandhi will present the party's vision and the way forward at the Congress Plenary session.

A meeting of the Congress Steering Committee was held at the Constitution Club of India in Delhi on 16 March, in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh and other senior Congress leaders.

The Congress hinted at a possible alliance with “like-minded parties” ahead of the 2019 general elections. 

The plenary session is expected to set the tone for the party's poll strategy in the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections where it seeks to oust the BJP from power, reported PTI.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told ANI:

[The Congress Plenary session] will decide the direction of the party for the next five years. It will be a workers’ plenary, the focus would be on workers and not leaders.
Randeep Surjewala, Congress spokesperson

An inaugural session would be addressed by Rahul Gandhi on 17 March.

Since the Steering Committee will cease to exist after the plenary session, the new Working Committee (CWC) of the party will also be put in place soon.

There was no confirmation on whether the CWC would be formed during the session or after, but sources said it won't be an elected body and the party chief will select his own team, it was further reported by PTI.

(With inputs from PTI and ANI)

9:14 PM , 18 Mar

BJP Leaders Hit out at RaGa's Speech

Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s concluding speech at the 84th Congress Plenary Session drew flak from the senior leadership of the BJP government.

Giving a point-by-point rebuttal of Gandhi's speech, senior BJP leader and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman termed his address as the "rhetoric of a loser" and "devoid of substance."

In an apparent reference to the Congress stand on the issue of construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, Sitharaman said, "The party which questioned the fundamental existence of Shri Ram today wants to identify itself with Pandavas," Sitharaman said,

Taking on Gandhi over his attempt to link Modi with fugitives Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi, she termed it as "a fake narrative".

Hitting back at the Congress chief over his attack on Amit Shah, Sitharaman said that it was astonishing that the Congress president chooses to make allegations against the BJP chief even though he has been cleared by a court.

"Gandhi himself is out on bail in Herald case, whereas our party President Amit Shahji, has been cleared by court," she said.

Union HRD Minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar also attacked Gandhi’s speech and said, he should apologise for his party's misdeeds first and then attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"While accusing Modi government he forgets that Congress did worst of genocide of Sikhs, they brought censorship in media and are known for all kinds of corruption and scams. He should first apologise for all that," Javadekar said.

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4:03 PM , 18 Mar

Congress President Rahul Gandhi Delivers the Closing Speech at Party's 84th Plenary Session

While delivering the closing speech at the 84th Congress Plenary session, party president Rahul Gandhi began his address by attacking Amit Shah, saying “no murder accused will ever be Congress President” and went on to allege that Modi had gone far beyond peddling ‘jumlas’ to tell blatant lies to the Indian public.

Gandhi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not fighting corruption but was "corruption himself" and under him, the country is controlled by "corrupt and powerful".

The name Modi symbolises the collusion between India’s biggest businessmen and the Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress President

Referring to the former Indian Premier Leagure (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi and diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, who are accused in different cases of fraud, he said that "Modi gives Modi Rs 30,000 crores of your money and in turn, Modi gives Modi money for marketing Modi and fighting elections".

Recalling the two warring sides of the epic Mahabharat, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said the BJP, like the Kauravas, fought for power, while his party, on the lines of the Pandavas, battled for truth.

Taking a potshot at BJP President Amit Shah without naming him he said: "They (the BJP) will accept a person with a murder charge as their party President."

They appointed a man who was charged with murder as their party president. Congress would never do that. India expects much more from the Congress because they expect a higher standard from us.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress President

Gandhi also alleged that the "BJP is a voice of an organisation" while the "Congress is the voice of the nation".

They tell Muslims of India who never went to Pakistan and supported this great nation, ‘You don’t belong here’. They tell the Tamils, ‘Change your beautiful language’, they tell people of North-East, ‘We don’t like what you eat’, they tell women, ‘Dress properly or we’ll thrash you’.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress President

“They told Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi, question us and you will die. They tell our honest businessman to shut up and allow corrupt officers to extort their hard earned money. They tell our farmers to work for nothing,” he continued.

He also admitted that the last Congress govt was not able to stand up to the expectations of the people. He said, “I don't say it with happiness but the last govt we formed did not stand up to the expectations of the people. The people of the country were let down by us.”

He said his first priority will be to break the ‘wall’ between Congress leadership and party workers.

He continues, “The PM diverts our attention and jumps from one event to another from Gabbar Singh tax to yoga in Parliament but never talks about the issues. But, the Congress cannot be stopped from seeking the truth and justice.”

Taking a jibe at the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Congres leader said: "(Mahatma) Gandhi spent 15 years in jail and died for the nation. But India must never forget that while our leader slept on the floor in jail, (Vinayak Damodar) Savarkar wrote a letter to the British begging for mercy and clemency," he added.

Gandhi also said that the trend of ‘parachuting leaders’ to contest on a Congress ticket or denying a ticket to a hard working party worker who did not have the money to fund his campaign, will now stop.

3:34 PM , 18 Mar

Amid Loud Cheers, Navjot Singh Sidhu Takes Stage

Amid loud cheers, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu took stage at the 84th Congress Plenary Session in New Delhi. He advised Rahul Gandhi to embrace Congress workers who can help him hoist the national flag from The Red Fort in 2019.

Owing to his natural sense of humour, he chuckled at Manmohan Singh and said, “Aap Sardaar bhi hai, Asaardar bhi.”

1:41 PM , 18 Mar

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram Presents Economic Proposal

Former finance minister P Chidambaram, while presenting the economic proposal of the party, said:

I am here because I draw my strength from each one of you. There is a steel instilled in me that comes from the 45 years of my association with the Congress.   

He also spoke about the current phase of economic growth, while also strongly condemning demonetisation:

The current phase of economic growth started in the 1990s when Rajiv Gandhi sowed the seeds of liberalisation. This gained momentum under Dr Manmohan Singh. Whatever the BJP, the NDA may say, these records speak for themselves. As for demonetisation, there can’t have been a greater lie. Why has the RBI not been able to complete the counting of currency returned? I want to tell the RBI officials – ‘go to Hundi collectors in Tirupati... they count money faster than you.’
P Chidambaram, former finance minister

Chidambaram also claimed that it was the Modi government that had pushed people into poverty.

The biggest achievement of Dr Manmohan Singh was that 14 crore people were lifted out of poverty. The BJP govt pushed people into poverty – the number of people below the poverty line went up. It’s the greatest disservice that the BJP govt did to the people of India.   

Published: 16 Mar 2018, 10:02 PM IST
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