New Delhi: A combative Rahul Gandhi on Saturday signalled an aggressive campaign against the RSS soon and declared that a reinvigorated Congress alone can 'smash' BJP and its ideological mentor.
Rahul Gandhi. Pic/ANI
"Secularism is in the blood of Congress and it simply cannot be removed... This is the DNA of our organisation and we just have to reinvigorate that and you will see Congress... defeat, and not just defeat, but smash RSS and BJP," he said. Winding up a two-day national conference in the run up to the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, he suggested that the challenges ahead are not insurmountable even as he averred that it would 'not be a fair' assessment that Congress was not fighting RSS.
The Congress Vice President said that his party was the 'biggest force' fighting it. Further, expressing concern over the growing atmosphere of intolerance, he charged that "for the first time in the history, a fascist organisation that is openly opposed to the ideology and values of our Constitution has acquired decisive power over the Union". He added that "they have demonstrated in the last 18 months that they are prepared to use the very power of the republic to destroy it". Gandhi said there was an 'unprecedented challenge and crisis facing all Indians'.
Claiming that the stated purpose of RSS was to establish a 'theocratic, autocratic state', he said that to achieve this goal, it has to destroy the current liberal, progressive, secular, social and democratic republic. Gandhi also said that there was a false impression among scholars, intellectuals and historians who participated in the meet that RSS had beaten Congress.
"We are viewing this somewhere as a victory of the RSS. We are viewing this as RSS having beaten us. This is false. RSS does not (know)... what it is going to face in the coming weeks and months and years," he said.
Seeking to reach out to the progressive intellectuals and scholars, he said it is a time for Congress and them to re-establish the relationship and have a discussion to bring out the ideas that are going to help the party defeat RSS.
"There is actually no distinction between you and us... There is a false barrier here between us... a lot of my friends here said why hasn't Congress done this and why hasn't Congress done that. But you also have to look towards Congress and realise that it deals with the equation of power. Congress is forced to deal with the equation of power and that changes many many things....I cannot just wish away the idea of power. It exists. And I have to open up to the idea of power," he said as he sought to respond to complaints that the party had not acted pro-actively in certain situations.
Rahul also took exception to what he claimed was some BJP- ruled states trying to ban people without degrees from contesting panchayat elections. "With what face does BJP ban people without degrees from fighting panchayat elections in some of their states?" he said.
Haryana government had recently made changes in state election laws to lay down certain compulsory educational qualifications for contesting panchayat polls, but Supreme Court later stayed the operation of these rules. Rahul also targeted RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and expressed criticism of Doordarshan's telecast of his Dussehra address and also made an apparent reference to the FTII row.
"With what nerve does BJP place incompetent ideologues at the head of hallowed institutions? Why must all of India be subjected to the hateful mediocrity of Mohan Bhagwat on national television?" he charged.
He said that "both peace and freedom have been viciously wounded" in the country and added that a heavy sense of fear is spreading. "We condemn all attacks on freedom of speech and expression, faith and worship, thought and belief," he said as he referred to the Dadri lynching as also the murder of intellectuals allegedly over their beliefs.
Paying a glowing tribute to Pandit Nehru, he said that the first Prime Minister was a deeply tolerant man. "To him, India's tolerance was what made us great. Our tolerance was what we had to offer the rest of the world."
Attacking RSS and BJP, he said, "They are disrespecting and denying the Indian people their dignity... they are not just being intolerant, they are disrespecting the power of the Indian people. "This country belongs to everyone. This country belongs to any well-wisher who comes into contact with it. Even a guest who is in India for three days, for that period of time, is an Indian. And he has to be afforded the liberties and respect that is afforded to all of us.
"This negotiating over who India belongs to and on what basis is ugly and dangerous. It demeans us all. And we uniformly reject it," he added.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Friday stepped into the raging debate on intolerance and said that the nation is deeply concerned over the 'blatant violation' of the right to freedom of thought, belief and speech by 'some violent extremist groups'.