Congress president Sonia Gandhi rued on Independence Day that millions of Indians still faced discrimination and injustice in their everyday lives and argued that the nation could not progress without social harmony and tolerance.
“India has surged ahead exponentially in all arenas but at our core are the founding principles of truth, non-violence, compassion and unwavering patriotism,” she said after unfurling the national flag at the party headquarters on Thursday morning.
“India has no place for bigotry, superstition, sectarianism, fanaticism, racialism, intolerance or injustice, yet millions of fellow citizens encounter discrimination every day.”
Sonia went on: “We must rise as a nation to stand against every act of injustice, intolerance and discrimination to truly cherish our freedom.”
She said India had won independence through the sacrifices of many and urged every citizen to protect and preserve the values of freedom, brotherhood, peace and equality.
Greeting all Indians at home and abroad, the Congress president asked them never to forget the sacrifices the armed forces made to protect the country’s integrity.
She also paid tributes to the nation’s farmers, labourers, artisans, scientists, traders, teachers, artists, writers and thinkers, saying they all played important roles in nation-building.
Sonia told the youth that a modern nation could only be built on a scientific temper and a belief in peaceful co-existence.
Her speech differed starkly in tenor from that delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Red Fort.
Sonia suggested the Opposition parties’ overriding concerns were the violations of people’s constitutional rights and the need for social amity, a subject Modi ignored entirely while speaking about meeting “aspirations”.
Congress veteran P. Chidambaram asked why freedom had been denied to former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and the state’s common people who were groaning under a lockdown.
The Congress ran a hashtag — #ModiLiesAtRedFort — on social media, claiming a mismatch between the Prime Minister’s claims and the ground reality.
It described as anti-democratic and anti-constitutional the acts passed in the just-ended Parliament session, which Modi has lauded as historic, before targeting the Prime Minister on the economy.
“Modi can proudly call India a $3-trillion economy because of the sustained efforts of Indians, the prudent five year plans & the success of previous governments,” the Congress tweeted.
“Basically, the economy was handed over to Modi on a silver platter and he still managed to ruin it.”
The Congress described as “grandstanding” Modi’s talk of spending Rs 100 lakh crore over the next five years on infrastructure development.
“He is seeking to attract favourable attention from spectators or media. Given the state of the economy & existing expenditure on infrastructure development, we just have one question — where is the money?”
The party highlighted that GDP growth had slumped to 5.8 per cent last quarter. It argued that India would need a sustained growth of 9 per cent over the next five years in addition to investments at 38 per cent to reach the goal of a five-trillion-dollar economy.
Stressing that all the economic parameters were signalling a decline, the Congress cited how the government’s liabilities and current account deficit were rising and industrial production, exports and tax revenue growth were falling.
The Congress dismissed the slogan of one-nation-one-Constitution that is being voiced since the amendment of Article 370.
“(The) Constitution has been ripped to shreds by Modi & his government. The unilateral and undemocratic manner in which Article 370 was abrogated and J&K was dismembered is deplorable. One shudders at the thought of what this democratic government will do next.”