- "There is no right or wrong time to speak the truth. If one waits for the right moment to speak the truth, then it isn't the truth. It would be a lie."
- "Whatever representation we give to the Valmiki community would be less. They are the backbone of the Congress party...We want them in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha."
- "The thought behind what we have done in the past few is to empower the people with rights."
- "I want people of all caste, creed and region in the Congress party. I want each one of them to have a voice in the party. The day we include everybody, the Congress will once again win 360 seats."
- "The Opposition said India is shining and yet they lost the election. They lost in 2004, they lost in 2009 and they will lose in 2014. I tell them, take the poor along and only then can they win the election."
- "I want the Congress to be so strong that at any given point of time there are at least 40 leaders who have the calibre of being PM or CM."
- "The true name of the Manual Scavenging Bill should be Right to Dignity Bill"
Talkatora Indoor Stadium (New Delhi)
October 8, 2013
Social justice was the defining theme of Congress vice-president Shri Rahul Gandhi's address at the Valmiki Mahasammelan organised by the Bhagwan Valmiki Foundation today (October 8). "Whatever representation we give to the Valmiki community would be less. They are the backbone of the Congress party," Shri Gandhi said to the audience which largely comprised the Valmiki sub-caste among Dalits. Referring to the youth among Valmikis in particular, Shri Gandhi said, "we want to see you in the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha...those who are sitting behind, we want to see them at the forefront".
Numerous speakers representing the Valmiki community hailed the The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill recently passed in Parliament as a "second Independence" for the community. Referring to the legislation, Shri Gandhi said, "legislations are given strange names. The Manual Scavenging Bill should have been named the Right to Dignity Bill".
In a rare gesture for a political leader, Shri Gandhi apologised for the collective failure of the society and polity to put an end to the practice of manual scavenging. "I apologise to all of you that this practice has continued for thousands of years and we have been unable to eliminate it," the Congress vice-president said.
Shri Gandhi began his speech by referring to his opposition to the proposed ordinance reversing the Supreme Court decision on barring convicted persons from becoming lawmakers. "I was in Gujarat a few days back. A few journalists spoke to me about the ordinance. They told me that the timing of what I said was wrong. I told them 'There is no right or wrong time to speak the truth. If one waits for the right moment to speak the truth, then it isn't the truth. It would be a lie,'" Shri Gandhi narrated.
He said that the primary mission that has driven the Congress-led UPA over the past nine years is empowering the people with rights. "If we don't empower the people wtih rights, the country won't be able to progress," Shri Gandhi said.
"In India, people with money have all the rights. They can go to the police, they can hire top notch lawyers in court. The poor have no power or rights. It is for this reason that we have provided them rights," the Congress vice-president said.
Referring to the National Food Security Act, he said "People used to go to sleep on an empty stomach earlier. Now we have passed the Right to Food. Indira ji gave the slogan Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. Another slogan used to be Aaadhi Roti Khayenge, Congress ko hi Layenge (we will eat half a roti and we will vote for the Congress). Now the slogan is 'Pait bhar khayenge, Congress ko hi layenge (we will eat a full meal and we will vote for the Congress)," he said.
"However, the Opposition keeps asking us, 'where are the funds for providing the people with such rights?' But we have shown them how it can be done. We have provided the right to employment, the right to education," Shri Gandhi said.
Focussing on the Right to Information Act in particular, he said, "The RTI is the most potent weapon against corruption. Every citizen has been given the right to ask any question to the govt...Corruption, which remaind concealed, has now been brought into the open".
Shri Gandhi said that Congress is the only party that upholds the interests of the poor. "The Congress is the party of the poor. The Opposition does not understand the problems of the poor. They don't speak to the poor, they don't visit their homes," he said.
Attacking the Opposition, he said "The Opposition said India is shining and yet they lost the election. They lost in 2004, they lost in 2009 and they will lose in 2014. I tell them, take the poor along and only then can they win the election".
Shri Gandhi ended by putting forward his vision for the Congress party.
"I want people of all caste, creed and region in the Congress party. I want each one of them to have a voice in the party. The day we include everybody, the Congress will once again win 360 seats," he said.
"This will take time. But we have embarked upon this process," he added.