Today, we meet to launch the 125th anniversary
celebrations of the founding our party.
Over the next year, we will revisit our glorious past
and derive renewed inspiration from it; we will
rediscover the well-springs of our resilience that have
enabled our party to respond effectively to the
challenges India has had to confront from time to time.
Over the next year, we will recall those remarkable men
and women without whose sacrifices and contributions, we
would not be where we are today; we will also mark those
events that have defined contemporary India, events
shaped by our leaders that have left an indelible
imprint on the nation's social, political and economic
The Indian National Congress has always represented a
secular, democratic, just and inclusive India, an India
that is empowering the disadvantaged and the
discriminated, an India that is blending tradition with
modernity is anchored in unity amidst its many
The Indian National Congress has been a mass movement
that brought us freedom from colonial rule. And then it
evolved into a mass movement committed to bringing other
freedoms - economic, social, individual - to our people.
The Indian National Congress has laid the foundations of
a modern nation-state. It has been the binding force
that has firmly stitched together the concept of a
strong and unified India, confident of its place in the
The past is an index that bears testament to our central
position in the nation's public life.
We have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had men
and women of courage, integrity, sagacity and dedication
to lead us. These men and women showed us the path when
we were in doubt or peril and reminded us constantly of
our true calling.
Mahatma Gandhi ignited the thirst for Swaraj in the
hearts of tens of millions without succumbing to the use
of violence or abdicating the conscience of the people.
Gandhiji was that pillar of strength whose unfailing
resolve and commitment to the path of non-violence shook
an empire. He led by example and in doing so he brought
about a wave of transformational change in public life.
He gathered around him and led a galaxy of uncommon men
and women whose names continue to light up the history
of our Independence movement, names of unusual
distinction each of whom left his or her mark on our
Jawaharlal Nehru, more than anybody, shaped and
influenced post-independence India with his profound
commitment to parliamentary democracy, secularism,
economic planning and scientific temper. He gave India a
place of special prominence in world affairs. If India
was able to withstand the many tempests that engulfed us
in the years immediately following 1947, it was largely
due to his leadership. Together with Sardar Patel,
Maulana Azad and so many others from across our country,
he laid the foundations of the India of today, strong,
vibrant and self-reliant.
After Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime
Minister. He was in office only for about eighteen
months. But we still recall and remember his slogan 'Jai
Jawan, Jai Kisan'. Closer to our times the one single
individual who has had the most decisive influence on
the Congress of today is Indiraji. She stood upto vested
interests around her, heralded the Green Revolution,
abolished privy purses and princely privileges,
nationalised banks and launched the most ambitious
poverty alleviation programmes. She defended our borders
and safeguarded our interests in the face f military
might and the most formidable international pressures.
She gave voice to the poor and the deprived. She gave
self-respect and dignity to our countrymen and women.
Indiraji always led from the front with the courage of
her convictions and a fierce passion for her country and
As we embark on our 125th anniversary celebrations, it
is only appropriate that we recall the historic speech
given by Rajivji in Mumbai in 1985 on the occasion of
our centenary. His speech was remarkable for many
reasons, but particularly so for its new vision of a
21st Century India.
Rajivji achieved much in his all-too-brief tenure. He
travelled the length and breadth of India, seeking to
understand the aspirations and challenges of every
region, every community, every Indian. He recognised the
energy of a young nation and sought to harness it for
national causes. He brought peace to troubled parts of
our country. Rajivji worked tirelessly to ensure that
panchayats and nagarpalikas would occupy their rightful
place in our polity. He had an unflinching belief in the
power of science and technology, but emphasized that it
must serve the needs of the common man, the poor and the
marginalised. He ushered in the information revolution
that opened unprecedented new opportunities for our
Rajivji did not live to see the India of his dreams
become a reality, but he left his personal imprint on
the Party's manifesto of 1991. This became the basis for
our economic policies in the five years thereafter.
These policies imparted a new strength and direction to
our economy and society.
The years that followed saw some of the most difficult
moments in our party's history. Doubts were raised about
our party's very existence. Nonetheless we soldiered on,
anchored in our core values and overcame many seemingly
insurmountable odds. Our tenacity and hardwork enabled
us to secure a fresh mandate from the people in 2004 and
2009. Since then Dr. Manmohan Singh has led the
government with great wisdom and sagacity, respected
both at home and abroad.
I can say this with greatest of confidence that whatever
success we have had it is largely because of our Party
workers. It is on the strength of their commitment and
struggle that our great organisation has reached such
The Indian National Congress has a unique relationship,
a unique bond with the people of India. It has mirrored
their aspirations. It has reflected their hopes and been
a vehicle for their accomplishments. It has enjoyed
tremendous goodwill and support from them. It has
derived sustenance from each and every section of our
It is this relationship with the people that is the
foundation of our very existence, the singular source of
all our strength. Through our sustained efforts in this
125th year, we have to once again establish that the
Congress is always for and with the people of our
country and that the people look towards the Congress
Reaching out to the people in our towns and villages,
listening to them and what they feel and what they want,
spreading the message of our party's work and
propagating our government's achievements will also be
our principal focus.
And we need to do so in a spirit of selflessness, not
seeking benefit, consolidating power or success in an
The next year will be a period of reaffirming our
resolve and dedication. It will be an occasion for both
looking back and marching ahead.
Our leaders have bequeathed something very precious to
all of us.
On us falls the obligation to nurture that legacy, build
on it and write a whole new chapter in our Party's
Let us do so with the utmost sincerity and devotion.