The Congress on Sunday put on a massive show of strength at the Ramlila Maidan, the venue of many a battle against it, to declare that it will take its opponents head on.
Thousands of Haryanvis with pink pagris dotted the gathering as the ruling party sent out a clear message that neither attacks from civil society on the issue of corruption nor the constant criticism of its policies and decisions, especially those related to foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, by the opposition will deter it.
While Congress president Sonia Gandhi led the charge, arguing, time and again, that all of the UPA government’s policies were dictated by the aam aadmi’s interests, prime minister Manmohan Singh squarely blamed opposition parties for the “misleading” propaganda that small traders will be pushed out of business if FDI in retail is allowed.
“This (the propaganda) is contrary to the experience of other countries in the world that have allowed FDI in multi-brand retail, and does not have any sound basis in facts,” he said.
He argued that FDI in retail will not only help farmers get a better price for their produce and ensure that consumers get goods at lower prices, but it will also give a leg-up to employment. “Besides, FDI will be permitted only in bigger cities, where our domestic retailers are already operating, and with the permission of the state governments.”
Stressing the need to have the country back on the growth path, the PM sought to establish a direct linkage between higher growth, poverty reduction and lower prices. “Only if the government has the revenue from higher growth can it sustain programmes and policies for the welfare of the poor...We have to take unpleasant decisions in the interest of the nation, but ultimately, these decisions also serve the poor,” he said.
Ahead of his much talked about coronation as the official number two in the party, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi spoke like a young man in a hurry.