UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday said the Modi Govt’s biggest problem was unfulfilled electoral promises and that Congress and its UPA allies would return to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls

UPA Chairperson and former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday said the promise of “achhe din” will work against the BJP in the same manner as the ‘India Shining’ campaign did against the then Vajpayee government in the 2004 General Elections.

She also said that the Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will return to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “We are going to come back. We are not going to let them come back,” she quipped.

“The main issue with the BJP is that they made huge fantastic promises. But what is being implemented? They sold such a positive picture—we will give jobs, give you ₹15 lakh. There is great disappointment. I am confident the BJP’s ‘achhe din’ will actually turn into ‘India Shining’—which brought us to power (in 2004),” she said at the India Today conclave in Mumbai on March 9, when taking questions after her address.

About BJP and its allies now ruling 22 states and the reasons for Congress decline in the 2014 polls, Gandhi said the UPA had been in power for two terms of five years each and definitely there was anti-incumbency. “People felt perhaps they wanted a new person. There were other issues. Also, I think we were out-marketed because we couldn’t compete with the manner in which Modi and his party went into elections,” she said.

On the lessons learnt from the 2014 debacle, she said the party has to really develop a new style of connecting with the people at the organisational level. “We also have to look at the way we project our policies and programmes,” she said.

Gandhi said the National Democratic Alliance had adopted UPA programmes and in some cases “weakened” them.

On corruption as a big factor in the 2014 polls, she said it was “highly exaggerated” against her party. She referred to the court verdict in the 2G spectrum case in which all the accused were acquitted and to the huge figure of notional loss pegged by the then Comptroller and Auditor General. In an oblique reference to former CAG Vinod Rai, Gandhi said “… now everyone realises it was highly exaggerated. Another question we can ask ourselves is—how come the person who was in charge of that institution was given a cushy job right after his retirement?”

On her son Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party chief in December last, Sonia Gandhi said “He certainly has always wanted to have younger and new people in the party. If you do not have such people, how is the party going to grow. That is his argument and a very valid one.”.

“… there are also seniors/elders who feel ‘we have been struggling all these years and suddenly what is going to happen to us’. But in the last Congress Working Committee meeting, [Rahul] clearly said that young people must be encouraged but it does not mean doing away with or ignoring the seniors who have been in the party for long and have contributed to its growth,” the Congress leader said.

“Parliament worked better under Vajpayee”

There is no spirit of accommodation towards the opposition under the Modi government and Parliament worked in a much more positive way when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, said Sonia Gandhi. “The present situation is such that there is no accommodative spirit… It is our right, it is right of opposition. We worked very well when Prime Minister Vajpayee was there,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi alleged that her party was being sidelined by the government and was not being allowed to speak on the multi-crore PNB fraud. “When you have a genuine issue to discuss, you follow all the procedure, (but) we are just sidelined. We are not allowed to discuss… The last two-three days we wanted to discuss the (PNB bank) fraud. It is an issue which is agitating people. We are simply not being allowed to speak,” she said.

Asked how the present acrimony in Parliament will end, she said: “It cannot be fixed with the way the present government is running Parliament, adding that “I am aware that people at large are constantly angry with the Congress because they feel we are shouting, making noise. But there is a very serious reason for it. Parliamentary rules are not followed.”

She said now BJP allies including the TDP, the TRS and the Shiv Sena were also going near the Speaker’s podium and shouting slogans.

Gandhi said Vajpayee had great respect for parliamentary procedure. “And the then speaker was what a speaker ought to be. You [have] to hear both sides,” she said.

She said the Congress was also in opposition during the Vajpayee government. “We were bitter opponents. But we functioned well. Of course there were disagreements at times but on whole it was much more positive way. There was give and take, there were compromises when it came to debate.”