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Rahul Gandhi sworn in as Congress president, hits out at PM Narendra Modi

Rahul Gandhi spoke at length about current politics that is 'devoid of kindness and truth'

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi with Congress workers after formally taking over as party president on Saturday. Photo: Sanjay K Sharma

On Saturday, 47-year-old succeeded his mother as the president of the party at a time when India’s oldest political party is at its weakest since 1947, and by Monday, if exit polls prove to be correct, it is set to lose two more assembly elections in and If the party faces a challenging future, the day of officially taking over as the party chief was also one that the counts as one of its most historic of the past few decades. The day also marked the anniversary of Pakistan’s surrender in the 1971 war, which India fought under the leadership of then prime minister At a ceremony held in the lawns of 24, Akbar Road, the headquarters of the party, received a certificate of his being elected the party chief. He shared the dais with an emotional and nostalgic and former prime minister is the sixth member of the Nehru-dynasty to become party chief. reminisced how nervous she was when she first took over as the party chief in 1998 and the personal humiliation that her son has had to suffer. Rahul Gandhi’s sister, Priyanka Vadra, and husband Robert Vadra watched from among the audience.

After her mother’s comment on Friday that she was now retiring, Priyanka ruled out that she would be contesting the next elections from her mother’s seat. In his first speech as the president, hit at out at the and Prime Minister took India to 21st Century, but the Prime Minister (Modi) is taking us backwards, to medieval times, where people are being butchered because of who they area, beaten for what they believe and killed for what they eat,” he said. “This is my last address to you as president… Nearly 20 years ago, when I stood before you to address you for the first time as your chosen president, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking,” said in her speech. served as the president of the party for 19 years and had taken over on March 14, 1998, at a similarly challenging time when the party was in power in four states: Mizoram, Nagaland, and Odisha. It had also split into over a dozen factions, from Trinamool in to Tamil Maanila in spoke of her struggles after the assassination of her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, in 1984, and seven years later that of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and her decision to enter Referring to several state elections that the party has lost since 2014, said the party faces a kind of challenge that it has seldom before. “We are all witness to the daily attacks against freedom of speech and expression, against our culture of diversity, and its replacement with an atmosphere of suspicion and fear,” she said. On Rahul Gandhi, she said her son has from childhood “borne the experience of violence, the savage personal attacks he has confronted since entering has served to make him a brave and stout hearted man.” In his speech, termed the occasion “historic”. spoke at length about current that is “devoid of kindness and truth”. He said is being used not to empower and lift people up, but to crush them. He said the stood for the poor and challenged the existing structures of power to stand with the weak, but “the moment you announce that you stand for the poor, you are attacked and in order to defeat you, they hit you on all fronts. They lie and they distort. Those in power in India today are shaped by the very structures that keep India poor.” “We are now being compelled to imagine that businesses can be built without harmony, that only one man, one man himself — is the voice of reason, that expertise, experience and knowledge can be cast aside for personal glory, that it is acceptable for our foreign policy to lie in tatters so that one man can feel strong, and that everything in fact is subservient to the leader’s personal image,” he said. He said the party will never back down, and stand up against forces of hate, and defend the voice of every single Indian.

First Published: Sat, December 16 2017. 22:19 IST