New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday launched a strong but veiled attack on the BJP-led government, saying a determined bid was being made to decimate the contribution of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the epitome of secularism.
Addressing a gathering at the Talkatora stadium here to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Nehru, Sonia Gandhi said there was an attempt not only to target the personality of Nehru, but also his ideology, vision, struggle and contribution.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the Narendra Modi government, saying "the country was being ruled by angry people".
Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi used the occasion to galvanise the party, following its debacle in the Lok Sabha election and reverses in the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly polls.
Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party or its affiliates, Sonia Gandhi said there was a need to create a public movement to preserve the ethos of tolerance for which Nehru struggled all his life.
"We have to go with a resolve that we will fight those individuals, ideologies and institutions who want to destroy the edifice of liberal India given by Nehru.
"We have to go with a new resolve that we will give a new force to the legacy of Nehru in the present context," Sonia Gandhi said.
She said if Nehru was present, he would have asked party workers to be united, strengthen the party organisation, go to people and connect with them on their issues and relate to their joys and sorrows.
"He would not have hesitated to say that 'fight communal forces on all sides, become brave secular soldiers to preserve the soul of India'. Are you ready to do all this?" Sonia Gandhi asked the party workers.
Recalling Nehru's contribution to the freedom struggle and as India's first prime minister, Sonia Gandhi said he laid the fundamental structure of the country.
"India's parliamentary democracy, secular society, progressive social change, rule of law, economic development and independent foreign policy... apart from this, there may be only a few areas where he did not contribute," the Congress president said.
She said Nehru laid the policies which have enabled India to send satellite to Mars.
As part of its efforts to resurrect Nehru's legacy and brighten its electoral fortunes, the Congress is organising a series of events including an international conference Nov 17-18.
The party has not invited Modi and the BJP for the event.
In his speech, Rahul Gandhi targeted the Modi government, saying its big promises have failed to yield results.
"On one hand, they are cleaning the road for photo opportunities, and on the other hand they are spreading hate," he said, referring to the Swachh Bharat campaign of the Modi government.
Without taking any names, he said there was a view that English language should not be used.
"This is the language that sent IT engineers to the US. Every child wants to learn it," he said.
Rahul Gandhi said Nehru wanted to connect India with the world and allowed use of both English and Hindi.
He said "angry people who are running the country" say that English should not be used and Hindi should be used for work.
Rahul Gandhi also said the Congress was the only party that can take India forward through love and brotherhood.
"Today, there are attempts to divide us and the country. Only the Congress can fight these people as it is an organisation (that stands) for love and brotherhood."
He admitted that the Congress, voted out in May after a decade in power, had made some mistakes but it had never swayed from its ideology.
The BJP, meanwhile, slammed Rahul Gandhi for his remarks and said his whole life had been a photo opportunity.
"His life has been a photo opportunity. So, perhaps he tends to see everything else from that perspective," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
Kohli also asked if Rahul Gandhi had attended parliament consistently, moved any bill or participated in discussions.