The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 15 , 2014
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Sonia puts heart & soul into it
Hindustaniyat reply to ‘ME’ and Hindutva

New Delhi, April 14: Sonia Gandhi tonight hit the airwaves at prime time to position the general election as an epoch-making battle to protect the “very heart and soul of India”.

Targeting the “ME” campaign of Narendra Modi, Sonia asked voters to reject attempts to impose “uniformity” and countered the BJP’s brand of Hindutva with what she referred to as “Hindustaniyat, our Bharatiyata”.

In a three-minute television spot from 8.57pm that was aimed as much at the voters as the despondent Congress rank and file, she said: “It is this, the very heart and soul of India, that we are fighting to protect in this election, from those who seek to change it, and to divide us.”

The Congress president made a pointed — and dramatic — reference to the personality-driven pitch of Modi by saying: “We want unity. They want to impose uniformity. They say, ‘Just believe in ME’.”

Sonia, who had largely left it to Rahul Gandhi to manage the frontline, virtually took centre-stage today amid a perception that Modi is hogging screen space while the Congress campaign has so far been unable to make its presence felt.

Compounding the perception problem was a sense that the party is unable to make up its mind on how to take on Modi. Earlier in the day, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had taken the uncommon step of declaring that it was her “personal” decision not to fight the election and her brother wanted her to contest. ( )

The television commercial appeared to be an attempt to rally the foot soldiers of her party as well as to reach out to critics of Modi who were considering options other than the Congress whose stomach for combat was being questioned.

Sonia sought to scale up the fight beyond the confines of party politics, hoping to rekindle historical memories and citing her personal example to hold aloft India’s ability to embrace multiple cultures.

Speaking from the 10 Janpath study, the once-camera-shy Sonia said: “I want to share with you what is in my heart, what makes me proud to be Indian, as each of you is a proud Indian. Our India is founded on certain core beliefs and values. It is these basic beliefs that have united all of us, diverse people, into one nation. I learnt these from you, as you made me one of your own.

“What are these values that are the very heart and soul of our motherland? They are love and respect, harmony and brotherhood. In a word, non-violence.”

Congress leaders said this was the first time Sonia had agreed to feature in a commercial. The commercial was recorded in Hindi and in English.

“Living with these feelings for each other across religions, castes, communities, regions, languages, is what makes us one strong nation. These have been the bedrock of our progress. These are the essence of our Bharatiyata, our Hindustaniyat,” she said.

At another point, Sonia said: “Their vision, clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to the ruination of our Bharatiyata, our Hindustaniyat.”

Leaping to the present, Sonia said: “We say, ‘believe in our intentions, in our achievements: a high rate of growth, inclusive development, strong democratic institutions’.”

She made an indirect reference to the “one-man-army” criticism levelled against Modi. “We are fighting in this election for a future where power is not the preserve of a select few, but exercised by the many.”

The Congress president again underscored the momentous nature of these elections. “Today, our society stands at a crossroads. The Congress ideology and vision will continue to take us towards a healthy, free democracy open to the light of change and transformation.”

Sonia signed off by putting the onus on individual voters to decide the course the nation should take. “In this coming election, I ask each of you to think from your heart and decide what direction, what path you want our country to take,” she said.