It is an honour for me to speak to you. Last year, at a similar gathering of colleagues and friends, I spoke about the optimism and energy that has built this great nation. The same energy that is unleashing an unstoppable democratic upsurge in our country today.
For the last ten years, we have had the privilege of Manmohan Singhji’s leadership. This unbroken decade of stability has created vast new economic opportunities for our youth and has brought about massive social and political change.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the job that he has done for this country.
RG: Nahii bhaiyaa thoRaa zor se kariye. No, please clap a little louder.
Crowd applauds louder.
RG: Aur Soniya jii ke liye bhii. Please applaud also for Soniaji and all other senior leaders. Aur hamaare jo senior leaders hain. Aap hamaarii shaktii ho. And all our senior leaders. You are our strength]
It is clear that we the Congress has made this democratic upsurge possible. We have served the country by enhancing and deepening the foundations of our democracy.
Let’s look at the big steps that we took to increase your power, the power of the people of this country. The single biggest step that we took, the single biggest attack on the system is called the Right to Information. RTI. We restored information. Everyone says it in the world, "Information is power". Well, through the RTI we gave power to the people of this country. We gave them information that was locked up in government offices, we gave you the power. And let me say something else which is very important. No body pressurised us to do the RTI. Nobody told us to do the RTI. The Congress party got up and said the country needs the RTI. Every single person in this country needs to know what is going on in his government and we gave you that. And we also knew another thing, we knew that this revolutionary law would place our own government and our allies under severe scrutiny. But we still did the RTI
We have also created the right to identity -- Aadhaar-- so that your money reaches you directly. This is not a small thing. Rajiv Gandhi used to speak about 15 paisa, and we are the first government that has actually taken action on it and said that this money belongs to you and we are going to put it in your bank account. It is the largest anti corruption platform that anybody in the world has ever built. It will enable people to get their benefits and entitlements without paying a bribe.
Secondly, we constructed and reinforced the third pillar of government— Panchayati Raj. [I don't see Mani Shankar Aiyarji here. Where is he? There.] And a gentleman who fights for this everyday of his life. Yeah, I would like you to applaud him as well. This was Rajiv Gandhiji's dream that let us give true power to the people in the country and this has allowed millions of you to have access to our political system and has exponentially increased democracy in our country.
What is NREGA? What is the Right to Food? if it is not handing the power to the people of India? Decisions that were once in the hand of a few people, 3-4 people, government officials, are today firmly in the hands of all our people. Nobody can refuse a poor man when he goes and asks for a job. Nobody can refuse a poor man when he goes and asks for the right to food. Nobody can stop any Indian if he asks a question of his government. This is what the Congress party and the UPA has done over the last 10 years.
And the third step, and the third step and a massive step and I saw Sam Pitrodaji was here sometime back, I don't see him now. Kahaa hai Sam Pitrodaji, who was critical in this step, the third step --is technology, the bedrock of which was set up by the Congress. These are huge steps. Look at every one of them, look at every one of these steps. Look at every step that the Congress party takes and has ever taken, from independence and before independence, and tell me one step that is not about giving people power. Tell me one step, whether it is bank nationalisation, whether it is telecom revolution, whether it is the right paradigm, whether it is the fight against the British, tell me one step that we have taken that is not for the people of this country and not to give them power. Tell me one, I want to hear it, I don't hear it.
What the Congress party has enabled over the last 10 years is an unmatched transfer of power to the people of this country. And let me tell you, the answer to every single problem this country has is to push this revolutionary democratisation further, to make this democratisation reach further and further into the hearts of the people of our country. There are MPs here among us -- and I can see their faces, some of them young, and some of them not so young -- there are MLAs here -- all of you are young at heart, some are young in age and some are young at heart -- there are MPs here and MLAs here among us, your job is law making. You are law makers for this country, it is a great responsibility, a huge responsibility. While the work that you do on the ground is very important, we need to bring your voice back into the law making process. Today, the MPs and MLAs voice is not there in law making. Today laws are being made by the media, laws are being made by judges, laws are being made in the streets of this country. And the people who have been elected to make those laws are being sidelined. We have to bring you back in law making -- in Parliament, in legislative assemblies, and we have to bring the pradhan back in helping the village move forward. It is you -- do not forget this, and I am speaking here to the MPs, MLAs and the pradhans -- who truly represent the people of India. You have been elected by the people of India, and I want to ask you a question: What power do you have in the system today? We need to bring the voice of elected Local Self Government representatives into the governance of the country.
Democracy is not rule by dictates. We have struggled for this for the last hundred years. Democracy is not rule by one man. Democracy is rule through empowered elected representatives. Through you. We have to empower all of you and bring you back into law making so that the voice of the MP is heard in Parliament. There I see Depender nodding his head, because we sit in Parliament and what do we talk about? We talk about the fact that the MPs do not truly make the laws. So we need to bring the voice of the MPs back to Parliament. We need to bring the voice of the MLA back into the legislature, and we need the voice of the Pradhan in the village. But whose voice do we have to listen to more? And this voice is even more important than the MPs, the MLAs and the senior leaders? That voice is your voice, the voice of the Congress worker, the person who gives us his blood every single day of the year. Common people should be able to enter politics, common people should be able to walk into the political system, but today they cannot. We need to change that. We need to ensure that they can come in with ease.
Today we live in a world where packaging and selling politics seems to replace the essence of real issues and real people. But let us be honest with each other. This is not just another turn in the history of India, this is not just another election to be fought, and won or lost. This is the turning point in our nations’ journey. Nobody is in the mood to accept less than their full and complete right. No-one is willing to compromise anymore. They want individual choice. They want participation. They want a Fair Deal and, frankly, they deserve it. This is the reality. Either we wake up to their aspirations, or we have no business to claim that we represent them. The change that is taking place around us is unstoppable.
The imperative before us, is not whether to change, but when and how to change.
What does this mean for us as a political party?
It means responding to the immense demand for political and governmental reform in the revolutionary and dynamic way that only the Congress Party is capable of doing.
It means that unlike others, we do not respond by complaining about all that is wrong without articulating clearly what is going to be done about it.
We do not respond by proposing oversimplified non-solutions.
We do not respond by subverting democratic institutions and blocking Parliament sessions, year after year, day after day.
Nor do we respond by turning people against each other.
We do not respond by lighting the fires of communal hatred.
No, we do not respond by proposing either that the structures of democracy be handed over to one man or that they be viciously destroyed.
The Congress Party responds through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means.
We respond from the soul of the values that built this great nation.
It is interesting to see that the response of the opposition, to all this democracy has been to move in exactly the opposite direction. India and the Congress party are going there [points to one direction] and the opposition is going there [points to another direction].
People demand honest and efficient governance. We respond by getting the Lokpal Act passed. Everybody made a tamasha about it. Everybody spoke about it, who passed it? Who passed it? The Congress party passed it. And we don't stop there. We do not stop there. We gave you the RTI. We gave you the Lokpal Bill. And now we want to give you something else.
We have 6 bills in Parliament -- the opposition has stalled Parliament year after year. We want to give the country these six bills. These bills will transform the fight against corruption and the Congress party should stand behind these bills and ensure that the opposition does not stall the passage of these bills in Parliament. If these bills are implemented in their spirit, dishonesty will be punished but also that honest officers are protected.
People demand higher incomes and greater prosperity. We respond by enforcing a minimum wage and giving them the highest growth rate in the history of this country.
It’s easy to pretend that all this is just a matter of passing orders. It is easy to pretend that this doesn't take time. It takes time. It takes sustained commitment. Real change is structural and for that, we need to work continuously through legislation, reform and sustained political effort.
In the Hindi version of his speech, Rahul Gandhi, addressing the PM asked for the subsidised cylinders to be increased from 9 to 12. And sure enough, without any discussion or fuss, soon thereafer oil minister Veerappa Moily announced that the quota of subsidised cylinders would be raised from nine to 12, a move that will cost the government an extra Rs. 3300-3500 crore a year.
Asked who would bear the cost, Mr Moily told NDTV, "Leave this to us, we will do it and handle it."
After the Hindi interlude, RG swithced back to English:
We are not assembled here as individuals today. We are assembled here as the trustees of an idea. And we are going to defend this idea. This idea is far greater than any one of us -- it is greater than me, it is greater than you, it is greater than the prime minister, it is greater than the Congress president, it is greater than any one of us. We respect the liberty and dignity of every single one of our countrymen -- everyone of them, regardless of who he is. Everyone of us. We do not love our country because it is rich or because it is powerful. We love our country because it upholds the ideals we wish to live by. We love it because it stands on the ideals of humanity, it stands on the ideals of inclusion, and no matter how much our shortcomings might frustrate us -- and they do -- we love this country because it has always taught us to love one another. It has always taught us how to remain united in the face of adversity. And it has always taught us, never, ever, to give up. No matter how hard the struggle, no matter how hard or difficult the struggle or how dark the night, India teaches us to fight on with compassion in our hearts and faith in our future. My friends there is a tough battle ahead of us. We will go into this battle as warriors with our heads held high. We will not look back, we will go in to this battle knowing exactly who we are, and exactly what we stand for. We will fight with every thing that we have within us, every single thing we have within us. All of us. We will not rest and we will not lose courage. And we will not stop till the battle is won. I am proud of every single one of you. I am proud of all the people of this country. You make this country what it is. You make this country great. Thank you very much.