NEW DELHI (TIP): Sonia Gandhi set the tone for the meeting in her inaugural remarks as she launched a frontal attack on Prime Minister Modi, terming his promises as nothing more than “hawa baazi” (hot air) and his government failing abysmally to match its words with deeds.
BJP leader and union minister Smriti Irani hit hack at the Congress president over her “hawa baazi” remark, saying “whenever Sonia Gandhi targets us, people of India come to support Prime Minister Modi”.
The CWC meeting was necessitated with the party deciding to hold its organisational elections by the end of next year amid the possibility that the long-speculated elevation of party vice president Rahul Gandhi could take place as culmination of the organisational election process.
Both Sonia Gandhi and the CWC on Tuesday congratulated Rahul Gandhi for leading the fight against the government on the controversial land acquisition bill and forcing the government to back off.
The CWC, the highest decision-making body of the Congress, also decided on significant changes to the party’s constitution such as increasing reservation for weaker sections, including Scheduled Castes and minorities from 20 percent to 50 percent, bringing back the practice of active membership, inclusion of electronic membership and reducing the term of members and office bearers from five years to three years.
The changes are meant to strengthen the Congress base and expand its membership at a time the party is seeking its electoral revival after a string of reverses in assembly polls following its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections last year.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the party was in support of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) but the government should accept its proposed amendments on the bill.
He ruled out the party’s support to the government suggestion for a special session of Parliament to pass the GST bill, saying it had not taken action against three BJP leaders whose resignations were being sought by the Congress.
The Congress has been demanding resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over their alleged help to former IPL chief Lalit Modi, who is facing Enforcement Directorate investigations, and of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
In her hard-hitting speech, Sonia Gandhi accused Modi of “unedifying flip-flops” and lack of a coherent policy vis-a-vis Pakistan. She said the government had chosen to disregard the will of Parliament and “displayed an inexplicable hurry to snatch land from our farmers”.
She also accused the government of being “controlled and directed” by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of BJP.
“It has become painfully clear that most of the pledges made by the prime minister during his election campaign were nothing more than ‘hawa baazi’. The Modi government has failed abysmally to match words with deeds, to match media events with actual accomplishments, to match headlines with substance,” she said.
She said the Congress needs to mount campaigns against the assault on tribal welfare, on women and child welfare, on labour laws, on laws that protect the environment and forests, on RTI and “on our flagship initiatives MGNREGA which are being systematically undermined”.
Stating that the economy was on a downslide while prices “continue on their unrelenting rise”, Sonia Gandhi accused the government of systematically eroding the autonomy and integrity of vital institutions.
She said history was sought to be rewritten with special targeting of Jawaharlal Nehru.
She called for a transparent mechanism to recognise and reward hardworking and performing workers in the party.
The term of Sonia Gandhi, who has been at the helm for 17 years, was to end in December this year.
The party will now write to the Election Commission informing it that it will complete the process of organisational elections by the end of next year.
At its meeting at the party headquarters here, the working committee decided on a series of significant amendments to its constitution including bringing back practice of active membership, inclusion of electronic membership and reducing term of members and office-bearers from five years to three years.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that the amendments had been approved by the working committee but the changes made in the constitution will take time to be implemented.
The CWC approved the proposal to extend term of all the committees including the All India Congress Committee and the Pradesh Congress Committees by one year. The party will now hold organisational elections before the end of 2016.
“As a party we have always championed the rights of the marginalized sections of society such as women, adivasis, dalits, minorities and OBCs. It is only through affirmative action that we will guarantee greater say in the working of our party to these sections of society,” Gandhi said.
There had been demands within the party earlier that party vice president Rahul Gandhi should be elevated as the president but the party appears to have decided to make the change at an appropriate time later.
Rahul Gandhi was elevated as vice president in January 2013 and has been aggressively taking on the Narendra Modi government on a range of issues over the past few months since his return from a sabbatical.
Sonia Gandhi, who took over reigns of Congress in 1998, is already the longest serving president of the party.
The CWC meeting comes weeks ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Bihar where the Congress will contesting 40 seats, in alliance with the Janata Dal-United and Rashtriya Janata Dal.
There has been talk in the party that any change in leadership before the Bihar elections would not be appropriate as the election was tough and there was no certainty about party’s prospects.