Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi today hit out at the BJP, accusing the ruling party of dispersing the voice of opposition and promoting a 'regressive vision' for the country.
The 71-year-old Congress leader castigated the ruling party, accusing it of spreading falsehoods to 'deliberately' subvert the idea of India, and Congress party.
"Was India really a giant black hole before 2014? Is it not an insult to the intelligence of our people (to suggest so)? This is a deliberate unwillingness to look at India's strengths over the past decades," she said while addressing an audience at the India Today Conclave.
On Congress' defeat in the 2014 elections, Gandhi admitted said there was a definite 'anti-incumbency'.
"We were in government for two terms and definitely there was certain amount of anti-incumbency(But) we were out-marketed in 2014. We could not really compete with the kind of (election campaign) that they went under Modi," she said.
Corruption charges had marred the Congress' prospects of winning the crucial Lok Sabha elections in 2014. The Congress leader said it was an issue but an exaggerated one.
"For instance 2G, the previous CAG came out with some humongous amount of money but there was a problem there. Now I think every one realises that it was not just highly exaggerated. How come a person who was in-charge was given a cushy job just after retirement?"
Accusing the BJP of spreading lies against the Congress party, Gandhi said the BJP managed to persuade people that Congress is a 'Muslim party', even though 'we have always been to temples.'
"When I travelled with Rajiv Gandhi, wherever we used to go, there was always a major temple that we used to visit. But we never made a show of it," she said.
In a deeply introspective speech, the Congress leader spoke on a wide range of topics, including her children, her own shortcomings and the role of democracy in India, the first time she has opened up since relinquishing the party president post.
Gandhi said democracy allows dissent and debate and not monologues, in an apparent barb at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress leader didn't mince any words against the government, and accused the Narendra Modi-led BJP of instilling an atmosphere of fear in the country.
“Fear and intimidation are order of the day; alternative voices are being silenced, religious tensions are being fuelled, vigilante armies are being let loose with state patronage, society is being polarised with a view to win election," The Indian Express quoted her as saying.
Gandhi alleged the BJP of using its majority in the Rajya Sabha to silence the voice of opposition. "If we are not allowed to speak in parliament, why not shut down parliament so we can all go home. Unlike Vajpayee, this BJP govt doesn’t respect parliament procedures,” she said.
In praise of the Prime Minister's oratory skills, Gandhi admitted 'public speaking does not come naturally to me'. "That is why I was called a reader than a leader," she said.
Speaking about her own role in leadership after Congress came to power in 2004, she said that she knew Manmohan Singh would be better a prime minister than her, and that she was aware of her limitations.
Reiterating her son's opinions of revamping the Congress party, the former party president said it needs to develop new style of connecting with people at organisational level.
When asked if she advises son Rahul Gandhi on his new role, she said she 'tries not to volunteer'.
During her question and answer session, the Congress leader opened up on her worries when her husband Rajiv Gandhi decided to join politics.
"After the assassination of my mother-in-law (former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi), I really, really did not want Rajiv to join politics," Sonia said. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991.