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Gratified that my innings could conclude with Bharat Jodo Yatra: Sonia Gandhi on her tenure as Congress chief

NAVARAIPUR: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said she was happy that her innings could conclude with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, with the party asserting that the remark was about her tenure as the party president and had nothing to do with her retirement from politics.

Addressing party leaders and workers at the 85th plenary session here, she expressed gratification for her innings, as the party showered praise on the septuagenarian for the achievements after she became its president 25 years ago.

Gandhi congratulated Mallikarjun Kharge as the new party chief and hoped that with his long experience, he would lead the young generation in taking the party forward.

After a video was played at the plenary session on her contributions to the party, Gandhi said she must express her gratitude for all that has been said about her tenure as the Congress president and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regimes.

”This also shows how old I have become and now, young people under the leadership of Mallikarjun Kharge must take forward,” she said.

The former Congress chief was all praise for Kharge’s journey from the grassroots levels to the top party post.

”I had the honour of taking office as President for the first time in 1998. Over these 25 years, our party has seen times of high achievement as well as deep disappointment… Our victories in (the) 2004 and 2009 (Lok Sabha polls), along with the able leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh ji, gave me personal satisfaction, but what gratifies me most is that my innings could conclude with the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” she said.

As her comments were interpreted by some as ”ambiguous”, alluding to her retirement from active politics, a senior Congress leader clarified that Gandhi’s remarks were in the context of her tenure as the party chief.

Gandhi is the chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary party and is the Lok Sabha MP from Rae Bareli till 2024. She has been an active member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the Steering Committee.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Chhattisgarh Kumari Selja also said Gandhi’s speech was about the conclusion of her innings as the party president.

Congress MP and head of the party’s legal cell Vivek Tankha said she has done her duty as an exemplary wife, daughter-in-law, mother and exemplary patron of the party.

Another Congres MP Karti Chidambaram said her guidance and influence to the Congress party will continue. ”Whether she continues to play an active role in electoral politics, her imprint will continue in the Congress.” Sonia Gandhi was the Congress president from 1998 to 2017, when her son Rahul Gandhi took over. She again assumed the office as the interim Congress president when Rahul Gandhi stepped down in 2019 and was succeeded by Kharge in October last year, soon after the start of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

In her speech, Sonia Gandhi also congratulated Rahul Gandhi for providing the leadership and determination in the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

”The yatra has come as a turning point. It has proved that the people of India overwhelmingly want harmony, tolerance and equality. It has renewed the rich legacy of dialogue between our party and the people through mass-contact programmes. It has shown us all that the Congress stands with the people and is ready to fight for them,” she said.

”I congratulate all the party workers who worked hard for the yatra. The colleagues, young and old, who took part in it and the lakhs of people of India for their participation, support and affection. I specially thank Rahulji, whose determination and leadership proved crucial in the yatra’s success,” the former Congress chief added.

She also said in many ways, the situation today reminded her of the time when she first entered politics. ”Then, as now, we faced a difficult struggle ahead. At this crucial time, each one of us bears a special responsibility towards our party and towards our country. The Congress is not just a political party. We are the vehicle through which the people of India fight for liberty, equality, fraternity and justice for all,” Gandhi said. The Congress reflects the voices of people of all states, religions, languages, castes and genders and works to uphold dignity and fulfil the dreams of each and every Indian, she said. ”So, the path ahead is not easy. But my experience, as well as the rich history of the Congress, tells me that victory will be ours. To achieve it under Kharge ji’s leadership, we must tackle the regime with boldness and vigour, and stand side-by-side with the people it attacks. We must reach out to people, and convey our message with clarity and cohesion,” she said.

”We must work with discipline and timeliness, to respond quickly in this fast-paced age. Above all, we must be ready to put aside our personal expectations, make sacrifices, and work with unity and a sense of common purpose,” Gandhi said. The Congress also passed a resolution at its plenary session and placed on record its profound respect for its former president and deep appreciation for her having led the party with such a sense of collective purpose for a quarter of a century.

”Responding to the pleas and wishes of her party members, she became the longest-serving president in the history of the Indian National Congress. Her dedication, determination and discipline have been unwavering and inspiring,” it said.

Overcoming the gravest personal tragedies, first the assassination of ”Smt Indira Gandhi and then that of Shri Rajiv Gandhi”, she courageously took on the position of Congress president during a time when the party’s political fortunes were at a low and led it to historic election victories in 2004 and 2009, the resolution said.

Source: Press Trust of India

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