BEACON LIGHT OF SECULAR & SOCIAl JUSTICE SONIA GANDHI
BEACON LIGHT OF SECULAR & SOCIAl JUSTICE SONIA GANDHI
After the brutal assassination of her husband, the former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991, Sonia Gandhi was invited to join the party and take up the post of Prime Minister, which she refused. After her disinclination, the party chose P. V. Narasimha Rao as their leader and as the Prime Minister of India.
The Congress party lost the elections in 1996 and continued to dwindle and divide, when many senior leaders, showed their resentment against the then incumbent president of the party, Sitaram Kesari. The party underwent several splits during this period. It was at this time that Sonia ji, joined the mainstream politics in 1997 amidst constant requests from Congress party cadres. She took over the party when the party was undergoing turmoil.
When Sonia stepped out of her cloistered existence at 10 Janpath the challenges she faced, both personal and political, were humongous. The Congress’s fortunes were declining, its image was sullied and it was suffering from a crisis of confidence and credibility. Sonia Gandhi had set for herself: stem and reverse the party’s decline, revamp its image, restore its appeal and make it count again. Although she had no political experience, she threw herself into the 1998 election campaign. She made more than 140 stops throughout the country, delivering speeches to packed audiences. And, even though, she spoke in a very soft voice, she touched the hearts of the people of India.
Sonia ji began her quest to revive and take forward the Congress legacy in 1997 by attending the Congress plenary session in Kolkata and she also addressed a rally at Sriperumbudur where her husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. The following year she became the Congress president, a post she continues to hold in the Indian National Congress Party, which is one of the oldest and most powerful parties in Indian politics, making her the longest serving chief of the party that has been helmed by several members of the Gandhi-Nehru family, including Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
It was from Indira ji that Sonia ji learnt about India, about its culture, about its values and political ethos. On taking charge as President of the largest party in the country Sonia ji’s aim was to reactivate the organisation into a fighting unit. She did it with grit and determination and succeeding and keeping the party united under trying circumstances. The story is for the people of India to recollect.
It is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia Gandhi said. It is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia Gandhi said. It is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia Gandhi said. It is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia Gandhi said. Se\SSpeaking on her association with her mother-in–law and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi It is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia GandhiIt is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia GandhiIt is from her that I learnt about India, about its culture, about its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons,” Sonia Gandhiduring a recent interview to India Today Sonia ji said...
“I cannot say how she (Indira Gandhi) would see Emergency today, but if she had not felt extremely uncomfortable, she would not have called for elections,”
She won the Lok Sabha elections in 1999 from Bellary- Karnataka, defeating senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj. Sonia ji was re-elected as Lok Sabha member from Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, thrice (2004, 2009 and 2014).
Under her able guided leadership, the party could win 114 Lok Sabha seats in 1999. Sonia thus humbled her opponents and silenced her critics with deft political moves. She reworked the Congress’ image with a pro-poor, pro-people slant, gave it the catchy slogan of Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath, chucked the party’s ekla chalo (go it alone) policy, struck up alliances, increased the party’s seats in Lok Sabha and brought a Congress-led coalition to power in 2004 and 2009. As champion of the poor and under privileged, she has been struggling for the upliftment of the poor with humanitarian approach bringing in progressive measures.
On Tuesday, May 17, 2004 during a meeting of the Congress Party, Gandhi made a declaration that stunned her party, the people of India, and the rest of the world. “I was always certain,” she said, “that if ever I found myself in the position that I am in today, I would follow my inner voice. Today, that voice tells me that I must humbly decline this post of Prime Minister.” Gandhi’s supporters pleaded with her to reconsider, but she remained firm in her decision to decline the position. A day after she made that heart touching announcement, Sonia ji nominated Dr. Manmohan Singh a renowned economist to take up the reigns as Prime Minister on May 19, 2004.
Manmohan Singh took charge as Prime Minister of India, the country was faced with disastrous financial straits, but during his tenure Singh became the mastermind behind the country’s economic reform movement. He opened up the country to outside investors for the first time, and ended regulations that had kept India tied to the past. It was with the huge support, guidance and backing up of Sonia ji that Dr. Manmohan Singh could become one of the most successful Prime Minister of India.
She gained so much popularity that members of opposing parties, especially the BJP, saw her as a very real threat. In an attempt to undermine her credibility, they attacked her verbally and in the press, focusing on a single issue: Gandhi had no right to be involved in politics because, having been born in Italy, she was a foreigner. It did not seem to matter than Gandhi had become an Indian citizen in 1984. Such attacks did little to harm her image or the party. She led from the front and defeated all forces who had tried to subdue her for her foreign birth and image.
Sonia learnt the tools of the trade, Indians recollect her decision in late 2002, to not to host, on account of the “suffering caused to the people in several droughtaffected states and in riot-hit Gujarat”, the traditional part iftar party held as a mark of communal amity and friendship with Muslims during the month-long Ramzan, must be deemed at least in part as the gesture of a pragmatic politics .She was conferred with the Guardian’s Women of the Year award in 2004.
Her saga of success despite BJP rule at the centre was a result of her honest and clear image. Heading a coalition government and keeping it united and intact was a great challenge. She had the task of balancing the governance and the coalition. She strived hard and was successful in uniting the secular forces together. She took charge when both the Indian polity and economy were in transition. The UPA headed by Sonia ji came into being aimed at providing a responsible, responsive and an inclusive government committed to ensure that the economy grows at a faster and in a sustained manner. She shunned hypocrisy and opportunitism and firmly believed in Congress ideology and Indian ethos.
In her manifesto priority was given to the poor the aam admi and the kissan apart from scrapping POTA to ensure law without fear and protect social harmony
Sonia ji consolidated her position by ensuring that the Manmohan Singh government came out with some radical programmes, which were her brain child. During her tenure as Chairperson of the UPA government and the National Advisory Committee, she was instrumental in enacting the Right to Information Act 2005. The RTI Act is the most potent instrument in the hands of an ordinary citizen to make the government accountable. One of the most pet schemes of Sonia ji was the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, - The MGNREGA, came to be world’s largest public employment programme providing 100 days of unskilled work to every rural family. Nationally, the share of SCs and STs in the work provided under MGNREGA has been high at 40–50% across each of the years of the Scheme’s implementation. Almost Rs. 74,000 crores have been provided to SC/ST households as wages under MGNREGA. Masive farm loan waiver scheme, Right to Education and the Food Security Act are some of the other game changing efforts to name some.
Her fight against corruption and nepotism was unprecedented and unrelenting. The impetus given by Sonia ji to the Lokpal and Lokyukta act 2013 and the Whistleblower’s Protection (WPB) act which enabled a citizen to expose the misdeeds of a government while enjoying legal protection from physical harm or judicial harassment was an absolute tool to fight corruption. This bill was passed by the parliament and received the assent of the President on 9 May, 2014. But, before it could be notified, the elections declared.
On 2 October 2007, on the eve of birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Sonia ji addressed the United Nations. The UN passed a resolution on 15 July 2007, after which, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi day is observed as the International Day of Non-Violence.
In recognition of her constructive governance, Sonia ji was bestowed with the Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold by the Belgian government for her constructive role in nationalism.
Sonia ji knows how to use her authority when it comes to the subject of discipline and ethics of the party. In her stint she has sent strong signals to party leaders and cadres to show her discontentment when it came in the way of the party’s ideology and integrity.
Sonia ji knows how to use her authority when it comes to the subject of discipline and ethics of the party. In her stint she has sent strong signals to party leaders and cadres to show her discontentment when it came in the way of the party’s ideology and integrity. NAC is an expression of Sonia’s sensibility on the issue of social security and civil society participation. As Chairperson of NAC Sonia ji she took the responsibility to implement promises made in the manifesto. Sonia Gandhi by heading the body lent the political weight it required and ensured that promises were implemented by the UPA government. The programmes improved the woeful lot of the last man standing in the queue. Some of the ambitious programmes of NAC include:
Right of Persons with Disabilities Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenger & Rehabilitation Bill 2012
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) 2010
Land Acquisition, Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill 2011
Protection of Livelihood Rights and Social Security of Street Vendors
Providing for 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
Providing 50% reservation for women in Municipal and local bodies
The seminal Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – was a key campaign promise of the Indian National Congress in 2009 - was enacted in 2013 after two years of nationwide consultations. This law was a historic victory for farmers and the agriculture sector. The law ensures that land cannot be acquired without the land owners consent, promises up to four times the prevailing market value as compensation and repeals the draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs was created on 29th January, 2006 under the Congress led UPA to ensure a more focused approach towards issues relating to the Minorities. The Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme for Welfare of Minorities was set up to focus on their education, health, employment, housing, safety etc. Education has been a major focus for the Indian National Congress. The enrolment of Muslim children at the primary level has increased from 9.4% in 2006-07 to 14.2% in 2012-13; this has exceeded the share of Muslims in the country’s population. Enrolment at the upper primary level has also gone up from 7.2 percent to 12.1 percent during the same period.
The Congress-led UPA instituted the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme. The Programme has been implemented in 90 minority districts of 20 States and UTs. The Indian National Congress also launched new programmes for skilling minority men and women; Nai Roshni is a Scheme that aims to build the capacity of women to provide them with knowledge, tools and techniques for interacting with Government systems, banks, intermediaries etc. Seekho Aur Kamao (Learn & Earn) is a Skill Development Initiative for Minorities. National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) has been set up for developing the potential waqf properties of about 6 lakh acres in the country.
The UPA under the leadership of Sonia ji abolished the bonded labour with the enactment of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which unilaterally freed all bonded labourers from bondage with simultaneous liquidation of their debts
To protect and support the welfare of children, the Congress-led UPA set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2006. New laws have also been passed to prohibit child labour and child marriage.
The Congress-led UPA established an independent Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2006 for the empowerment and upliftment of women. The Indian National Congress has enacted several Acts to ensure dignity, safety and prosperity for women and children, including the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, Maternity Benefit (Amendment Act) 2008, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. These Act provided opportunities and empowered women both
In order to promote the goals of equity and inclusion, several measures were proposed in the XI Plan which was in different stages of implementation. These measures include, inter alia, implementing the recommendation of the Oversight Committee (OSC) for 27 per cent reservation of seats for Other Backward Class (OBC) students and also of Sachar Committee; merit scholarship to 2 per cent of total enrolled students supporting the universities/colleges located in border, hilly, remote, small towns and educationally backward areas and with larger student population of SC/ ST/OBC/Minority/Physically challenged and girls besides construction of 2000 girls’ hostels.
It was Smt. Sonia Ji and Dr. Manmohan Singh ji who assigned me the daunting task of chairing the Oversight Committee for implementation of the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution when expansion of these institutions was just limited to 1% in all the 45 years of its inception. I took up the task conducted several deliberations with the VCs of various institutes, held wide ranging discussions and studies and with the constant support of Sonia ji and Dr. Manmohan Singh the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution could be smoothly implemented. And within 5 years the expansion in these institutes had risen to 54%. My approach of Expansion Inclusion and Excellence paid the dividend to open up the horizon of these intuitions of excellence.
Sonia ji also entrusted me with the job looking into the Congress Party’s future challenges. I was made the Chairman of the Group to Look into Future Challenges. Under her guidance I submitted the Intra Party Reforms to strengthen the party and to look into the future challenges faced by the party and recommended major reform measures which went a long way in the party’s success in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Congress came out victorious when the entire exit poll showed a negative trend for the party. Thus Sonia ji through the committee’s recommendations provided opportunities to empower the leaders and cadres both at the regional and national levels.
The nation will recall the address of at Thiruvananthapuram of Sonia ji when she attacked the taunt of Modi, saying - “Yes, I was born in Italy. I came to India in 1968 as the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I have spent 48 years of my life in India. This is my home. This is my country. For all of my 48 years here, the RSS, BJP and other parties taunted me to shame me for my birth.” Modi can “sink to whatever depths he wishes to challenge my integrity, but he cannot take the truth away from my commitment and love for India, my country”. Such was her love for the country and her people that made her so emotional.
Smt Sonia Gandhi reiterates and resonates in her voice that the present Modi government had ‘mistaken its parliamentary majority for a licence to impose its ideology’ on the people. She vehemently accused the NDA government of trying to polarise society and instigating and encouraging ‘social terror’.
Her mission and vision is to serve the people of this country and to save the people in the core issues facing the Indian polity. She dreams of India strong, united and secular. She foresees India devoid of poverty, eradicated from social, economic and political exploitation. Welfare of the people is her utmost priority. Her concern about price rise was very clear as she always directed the government to keep an eagle eye on raising prices of essential commodities and to ensure sufficient supply of food grains to the economically poor. In her tenure as Chairperson UPa I & II under Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, she was committed to provide a stable, transparent and accountable government. Humanity, simplicity, sympathy are her sole weapon in dealing with her opponents