New Delhi: In a two-pronged attack on fundamentalism and corruption, Congress president Sonia Gandhi
on Sunday said majority and minority communalism are dangerous and
must be defeated and favoured fast-tracking all corruption
cases, including those of politicians.
Addressing the Congress plenary here, she dwelt at length on
the two subjects in the backdrop of a number of corruption
charges hitting the party and the UPA government headed by it
and the controversy surrounding Rahul Gandhi's comments about
Hindu radicalism being "bigger threat" than groups like
"The Congress party makes no distinction between
organisations of the majority and of the minority communities
who indulge in communalism and related acts of terrorism. They
are all dangerous, they must all be defeated," Gandhi said in
her 30-minute presidential address to the two-day plenary
session that began today.
Maintaining that Congress has always fought against all
forms of communalism, regardless of their source, Gandhi said,
"Communalism is the abuse of religion for narrow political
"It is the abuse of religion and to spread hatred and
bigotry. It is the abuse of religion to polarise our society
and to divide us."
In an apparent attack on saffron forces, she said the
country cannot ignore the pernicious impact of individuals,
institutions and ideologies that distort history and thrive on
spreading religious prejudice and inciting people to violence
using religion as a cover.
Gandhi's attack on communalism of all hues comes as an
apparent damage-control exercise in the wake of controversy
surrounding Rahul's remarks to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer
against Hindu radicalism that came under attack from BJP and
‘Corruption a disease’
Delving on the issue of corruption over which the
government and the party have been under attack, the Congress
president expressed concern over the fact that it has "become
a disease" at all levels throughout the society.
She underlined the need for instituting a new system of
fast tracking all cases that concern corruption by public
servants, including politicians.
"Such cases drag on interminably and undermine public
confidence and trust. Why can't we put in place systems that
bring corruption cases to closure in a defined time-frame?
This would bring the guilty to book quickly and clear those
unfairly charged," Gandhi said.
Although she did not mention any specific case of
corruption, she was obviously referring to corruption charges
that have tarnished the image of the government and the party
like 2G spectrum scam, CWG irregularities and Adarsh Housing
Scam in Maharashtra.
Gandhi, who prescribed a four-point action plan to
battle corruption, asked party chief ministers and Central
ministers to relinquish discretionary powers in land
allotment, declaring that "we must corruption head-on".
She said there was "ample evidence" that all
discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation, breed
corruption. "I would like all Congress chief ministers and
ministers both at the Centre and in the states to set an example
by reviewing and relinquishing powers."
Noting significantly that there was no clapping from the
delegates on this suggestion, the Congress president reminded
party leaders of the need to be clean in public life.
"Congressmen and women, holding office, must not allow
any doubt about their probity and integrity. It’s ill for representatives of a party claiming to speak for the poor to
indulge in greed, extravagance and luxury.
"Simplicity, restraint and austerity must be our chosen
way. We cannot make this a law. But in a country where poverty
is still widespread, let us at least have moral sensibility to
avoid vulgar displays of wealth and waste," she said.
The Congress unseated Ashok Chavan from Maharashtra
chief ministership in the wake of Adarsh Housing Society scam, and
removed Suresh Kalmadi from the post of secretary of the
Parliamentary Party after charges of irregularities in CWG.
A Raja, a representative of DMK, was also forced to
resign as Union telecom minister in the wake of 2G scam.
Attacks BJP on corruption
In this context, Gandhi hit out at BJP questioning
whether it had removed anybody facing corruption charges.
"Even when no charge has been established, we have asked
ministers and chief ministers to step down, pending inquiry.
How many other parties can make such a claim? Can the BJP do
so in regard to Karnataka where corruption is rampant or other
She attacked the Opposition parties for not allowing the
Winter Session to function, asking "can anything justify
bringing Parliament to a halt? Can the Opposition justify
undermining the norms on which a Parliamentary democracy
"Surely, Parliament cannot be held hostage to political
expediency. Parliament itself is the forum to discuss and
resolve contentious issues."
As part of the action plan to take corruption head-on,
Gandhi suggested that the government should consider how best
to take forward the proposal of State funding of elections.
She also said that the government must ensure through
legislation and clear procedures full transparency in public
procurement and contracts.
"It is the duty of the administration to ensure that
there is no subversion of due process. And should it come to
pass, whistle-blowers must be protected," she said.
There is also need for an open competitive system of
exploiting natural resources, which has now assumed much
greater urgency, the Congress chief said.
‘Congress behind PM’
Hailing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Gandhi said he is
"the embodiment of sobriety, dignity and integrity" and
denounced BJP's personal attack on him as "downright
"On your behalf, I want to compliment him for his wise
leadership, for remaining calm amidst the storm and for his
unwavering devotion to the progress and prosperity of the
nation. The party stands solidly with him," she said.
Praising Singh's leadership, she said the economy has
moved to much higher growth path. "His stewardship through the
global (economic) crisis is acknowledged universally. It is
this high economic growth that has enabled us to fund our
social welfare programmes and schemes. It has also enabled our
government to transfer unprecedented financial resources to
‘Need to check inflation’
Gandhi said as the government sustains the momentum of
high economic growth, it also faces the challenges of
essential commodities whose prices must be kept at affordable
levels and inflation kept in check.
She said subsidies meant for the poor must reach them
and them alone. "Subsidies enjoyed by the relatively well-off
must be redirected to those in need. It is essential that the
quality of public education and healthcare is vastly
improved," she said.
In a message to the party cadres and leaders, the
Congress chief said party must always come before the
individual and its cohesion should not be jeopardised.
"Let me say that our future will be shaped not by a
magic wand or any single individual. Our future will depend on
our party's capacity to work together as a team and to ensure
that our organisation does not pull in different directions.
"There are always personal disappointments in politics
as in other walks of life. I can understand individual
ambitions but when they are not fulfilled, the party's
cohesion should not be jeopardised," she said.
Earlier in her speech, Gandhi stressed the need for
"periodic introspection of critical issues" in the
organisation to keep pace with the times.
She said that in the coming months, the party will hold
a conclave similar to the brainstorming session in Panchmarhi
Talking about poll debacle in Bihar, she said it has
only demonstrated that there was no alternative to earnestly
beginning the process of revising the party organisation from
"There are no short-cuts. The road ahead will be long
and arduous but we will persevere and we will succeed. There
is no time for despondency. This is a time for constructive
action, including in those states where we are in coalition."
Reminding the party ministers and office-bearers, Gandhi
said let it not be forgotten that it is the party that has
made the government and it is primary responsibility of those
in office to be sensitive to the voices coming from
organisation and ranks.
She said that many party workers in non-Congress ruled
states have complained to her that Congress ministers at the
Centre do not fully appreciate their concerns.
"They make a valid point. Such neglect is demoralising
for our workers who function in a hostile environment.
Central workers must engage with the local Congress leadership
and workers particularly during their visits," she said.
The Congress President, in her speech, also spoke on
various other issues like Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast,
terrorism and Naxalism, and emphasised that the door for
dialogue must be kept open.
She said the recent Varanasi bomb blast is a reminder
that vigil can never be relaxed. "Let there be absolutely no
no doubt about our determination to confront those elements
and organisations who operate from across the border and seek
to spread terror, to destroy our social fabric and weaken us
First Published: Monday, December 20, 2010, 00:18