New Delhi, March 19: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today asked the Centre to explore all means to ensure the Italian marines’ return to India.
“The defiance of the Italian government on the question of the two marines and its betrayal of a commitment to our Supreme Court is outright unacceptable. No country can, should or will be allowed to take India for granted. All means must be pursued to ensure that the commitment made by the Italian government to our Supreme Court is honoured,” Sonia told the Congress parliamentary party this morning.
The Congress president’s statement comes against the backdrop of the BJP trying to link her with the controversy in the light of her Italian origin, as they did in the case of the AgustaWestland chopper scandal.
Although Sonia had asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take a firm stand at the outset and the government issued a warning to Italy on the consequences, the campaign has persisted.
Sonia knows these issues become talking points in elections. Important states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are going to the polls this year and the Lok Sabha battle comes up in 2014.
Sonia referred to the polls and asked the party to galvanise itself to face these challenges with “confidence, professionalism and enthusiasm”.
The word “professionalism” has appeared in her speech for the first time in the context of election preparedness and reveals Rahul’s stamp.
Since his election as the Congress vice-president, Rahul has been stressing on the need for activating all the organs of the party machinery by bringing in more professionalism. As part of the effort to bring in corporate style probes, Rahul has distributed questionnaires to the PCCs to elicit the truth about political activities at the state level.
Sonia expressed apprehension of a bitter, low-level discourse in the coming elections without mentioning the name of any leader. She said “the people have seen through the obstructionist tactics adopted by the BJP in Parliament and the deliberative falsehoods spread by it outside. The use of intemperate and abusive language by the BJP about our party and its leaders goes beyond the pale of civilised discussion and debate.”
Amid clapping by Congress MPs, Sonia said: “Are we going to take this lying down? Certainly not. We will maintain dignity and take our fight to the people.”
The Prime Minister, too, had referred to the “choicest abuses” hurled at the Congress at the BJP national executive, without explicitly recalling that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had called the Congress “termite”.
This suggests the Congress is going to question whether belligerent, domineering ways are the true attributes of strong leadership.
Sonia, diverting from her usual practice of attacking the BJP on its communal politics and hypocrisy on corruption, swiftly turned to her government’s agenda, dwelling on the direct-benefits-transfer scheme and the land acquisition and food security bills.
She laid emphasis on women’s issues, like a bank for women which had the potential of transforming the lives of rural population by adequately funding schemes such as Aajeevika, the national rural livelihood mission on the self-help-group model.