Congress President Sonia Gandhi to lead march to protest intolerance

Encouraged by the response of civil society, writers, historians and scientists, against the wave of intolerance and attacks on rationalists, the main Opposition, Congress so far watching from the fence, has now decided to jump into the fray. The party sources here told dna, that president Sonia Gandhi will lead a march of leaders from the 30-January marg, Gandhi Smiriti to Rashtrapati Bhawan possibly on Tuesday, two days ahead of last phase of polling in Bihar. In March, Sonia Gandhi had led a similar march, in protest against land reforms, the ultimately forced the government to withdraw amendments in the land acquisition law.

Sonia Gandhi

Realising that President Pranabh Mukherjee himself was concerned at the threats to country’s pluralism, as he spoke on it third time in less than a month, a memorandum is being readied at the Congress headquarters, asking the President to intervene and ask the Modi government to rein in its ministers, MPs, chief ministers and workers fanning social strife. Congress sources said they were in touch with other opposition parties as well to join the march.

Giving that the march is being planned ahead of last phase of crucial Bihar elections, which mostly entails regions with considerable majority of Muslim voters, the party aims to convey a message and garner as many votes for the secular alliance as it can. The party sources, however, said they were still deciding on the dates matching availability of President Mukherjee as well as maximum Congress leaders in national capital. “The only purpose of this march is to highlight t communal agenda and threatening statements of elements within the government. Congress being main political party in the country feels duty bound to save the country from such elements,” said a senior leader, confirming that a march was being planned. The idea was finalised few days ago at a high-level meeting attended by leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, besides other senior leaders.

Many writers, who returned their awards in protest against Dadri lynching and other incidents over past few days had also accused the Congress for keeping silence apparently fearing its vote bank and not to be seen leaning towards minorities, as party strategists close to Rahul Gandhi believe it proved detrimental for the party’s political fortunes during last Lok Sabha polls. Sahitya Akademi winner Kiran Nagarkar, who criticised the government also accused Sonia Gandhi of ‘paving the way’ for Narendra Modi’s rise to power.

On Saturday, while speaking after handing out the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration to land reforms activist PV Rajagopal, Congress president said India’s prestige was at stake. She said Indian people will never allow the forces which are creating trouble in the country to succeed. “Economic well-being and social conflicts can’t go together. What is worrying is that the atmosphere of hate is being deliberately created. This will not only block development but weaken the foundations of the country. Indira would have expected us to rise against this, and we are prepared to fight this battle,” she said.