- She said she was convinced Congress's defeat in 2014 was an aberration
- She urged the party to be ready for the national elections
- "Reality is different," she said on PM Modi's offensive against Congress
But while stressing that her son is in charge, Sonia Gandhi also made it clear that she would take the lead in rallying other parties against the ruling BJP ahead of national elections that follow a series of state polls this year.
As chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, she said, "I will work with the Congress President and other colleagues in discussions with like-minded, political parties to ensure that in the next election, the BJP is defeated and India is restored to a democratic, inclusive, secular, tolerant and economically progressive path."
She urged the party to be ready for the national elections, which, she said, are due in slightly over a year and "might well be called earlier as they were in 2004".
Sonia Gandhi, 71, was Congress president for 19 years before she handed over the party's reins to Rahul Gandhi.
Describing the Congress's decimation in the 2014 as an aberration, she said: "Increasingly, the people of our country, people belonging to all sections of our society-are getting disillusioned with the present regime. It is for us to channel this discontent into support." The Gujarat polls and the Rajasthan by-election, she said, showed winds of change. Karnataka, where elections are due this year, would "underline the resurgence of the Congress", she added.
Sonia Gandhi said in four years of the BJP-led government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, parliament, the judiciary, media and civil society had come under systematic assault. "Investigative agencies have been let loose against political opponents. An all-pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation has been created. Liberal, secular and democratic traditions are being wantonly damaged. The pluralistic nature of our society-which has been its strength for centuries-is being eroded."
She held out the fear that there would be attempts to polarize voters in Karnataka. "The minorities feel unsafe and are being subjected to barbarous attacks. Dalits have come under renewed and widespread atrocities, as have women. In many cases this violence, especially against minorities and dalits is not sporadic or random, but orchestrated to polarize our society for narrow political gains. We saw this in both UP and Gujarat. We will no doubt see it again in Karnataka. Such polarization is criminal in a democracy, yet those in power look the other way."
Rebutting PM Modi's speech in parliament yesterday, Sonia Gandhi said, "Tall claims are being made of so-called economic achievements, but the reality is quite different."
She said rural economy and small and medium enterprises were in a shambles and joblessness had increased. "The last budget is full of sleights of hand - of jumlas," she said.
Accusing the government of unveiling "recycled" initiatives "with the flourish of a magician", she remarked: "True, the new names are catchy and colourful, perhaps much more so than during our time, we must admit."
It was, she said, "a game of Maximum Publicity, Minimum Government, or put another way, Maximum Marketing, Minimum Delivery".