New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a stinging attack on the Narendra Modi government, saying it seeks to whitewash its “communal agenda” by hiding behind the “mask of development”, and also accused the RSS of opposing the Quit India movement.
Sonia Gandhi also attacked the government on price rise at a function to mark the culmination of the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi targeted the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for “intolerance” and said the country cannot be painted in “one colour”.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said secular values of the country were in danger and accused Modi of pursuing “his own interests”.
The event was also attended by senior Congress leaders.
Sonia Gandhi, in a hard-hitting speech, said there were forces today committed to destroying Nehru’s legacy.
“Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi said Nehru’s greatness was in stark contrast to “those so-called nationalists who nowadays go around giving certificates on patriotism”.
“When some individuals attempt to infect our nation with sense of intolerance, prejudice, injustice, communalism, hatred and bigotry his light continues to shine forth and show us the right way, the way out of darkness,” she said.
She said when leaders like Nehru were fighting for our freedom, “the ideological masters of today’s ruling establishment were hiding safely in their homes while some were even singing praises of their British masters”.
“In fact, in 1942 when (Mahatma) Gandhi ji announced the Quit India movement, there were two groups which actively and openly opposed the call. One was responsible for partition and the other is today the remote controller of the ruling establishment,” Sonia Gandhi said, without directly naming the RSS which is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.
“It is a historic fact that both these groups instructed their followers to condemn Gandhi ji’s call. No matter how much the government today may wish to erase this past, it is a historical fact,” she added.
She said that for Nehru, democracy rested on the foundation of a debate, a free exchange of ideas.
“Simply because someone holds a different view or disagrees, they cannot be branded a traitor. It is a form of tyranny. Seeing the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance, we are reminded all the more of Nehru ji’s days when any citizen could speak his mind, his ‘mann ki baat‘ — a phrase which has nowadays been reduced to being the name of a radio broadcast,” she said.
Noting that Nehru was synonymous with laying the foundation of India’s growth, she said the Modi government seeks to use development as a buzzword but fails to take lessons from Nehru’s legacy.
“Today, we are witnessing attempts by certain individuals and elements to whitewash their communal agenda in front of the world by hiding it behind the mask of development,” she said.
She said Nehru oversaw setting up of several art and cultural centres but these were being reduced to a “joke”.
“Several eminent writers and scholars who were felicitated by the government are now returning their awards as a form of protest.”
She said members of the ruling party were quick to remind the common man what to eat and what not to eat, but have little advice to offer “those people who are forced to buy dal at Rs.200 a kg”.
Rahul Gandhi said the BJP and the RSS want everyone to sing in one tune.
“The BJP and the RSS think they know everything and don’t like to be questioned but the truth is, if they knew everything, ‘acche din’ (good times) would have come (by now),” he said.
Targeting Modi, he said the prime minister was asked by the media to comment on the issue of intolerance during his visit to Britain.
The Congress has been raising the pitch against the government over incidents such as lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of eating beef and had met President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this month to convey its concern over “rising intolerance”.