Launching a scathing attack on the NDA government, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked if India was really a "giant black hole" before May 16, 2014, the day the BJP came to power at the Centre.
Delivering a key note address at India Today Conclave the Gandhi asked if India was really a giant black hole before May 16, 201? Did India march to progress, prosperity and greatness just four years ago? Is this claim not an insult to the intelligence of our people."
Targeting the BJP government over growing intolerance, the Congress leader said, "Fear and intimidation are order of the day; alternate 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."
Stating that the country is in the midst of "great upheaval", Sonia claimed that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is using its brute majority in the Parliament to stifle the voice of the 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 observed.
Gandhi slammed the "arrogance" of "running down" the past achievements under previous governments.
"Our judiciary is in turmoil. RTI was brought to bring transparency, but today that law is in cold storage.
On making Aadhaar compulsory, she said that it is being converted into an intrusive instrument of control.
Gandhi said democracy allows dissent and debate and not monologues in an apparent barb at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
She also lamented that nation builders are being slandered, and that there was cynical running down of past achievements referring to the constant criticism by the ruling party of the post Independence achievements of the Congress and its prime ministers.
However, Gandhi noted that the Congress also needs to develop a new style of connecting with people at the organisational level.
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. "Public speaking does not come naturally to me, that is why I was called a reader than a leader," the Congress leader said.
Gandhi, 71, who was Congress president for 19 years was replaced by her son Rahul last year after internal party elections.