"The CWC had taken a decision on Rahul Gandhi yesterday. And that is final," she said in significant remarks before she began her formal speech at the start of the day-long AICC session here as delegates demanded that the Congress vice-president be anointed PM candidate. Rahul not to be anointed PM candidate LS poll a battle for India: Sonia Gandhi Sonia Gandhi attacks BJP (JPN/Agencies)
As the clamour among the delegates continued, Rahul interjected during the speech of general secretary Janardan Dwivedi to say that whatever he feels on the subject, he would make them known when he speaks in the afternoon.
Sonia Gandhi's remarks on the CWC decision are seen by observers as an attempt to send signals to leaders who would take the stage during the session to avoid harping on 'Rahul as PM' subject.
At the CWC on Thursday, Sonia rejected demands by leaders from various states to anoint him the PM candidate before elections, saying there has been no such tradition in the party.
Sonia Gandhi also said the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be "a battle for India" and its secular traditions. "We assemble here as the 2014 Lok Sabha elections approach. We meet today to send a clear signal that the Congress is ready and prepared for the battle ahead," she said.
"These elections will be a sharpening contest between conflicting ideologies, between competing interpretations of the past and between clashing visions of the future,” she added.
“These elections will be a battle for India as it was conceived by our founding fathers and as we cherish. It will be a battle for the preservation of our age-old secular traditions, traditions of diverse communities living harmoniously in one composite national identity," the UPA chairperson said.
"The Congress has faced many difficult times in the past. Much harder than today. But we have never lost heart. We have repeatedly demonstrated our resilience by remaining committed to our vision, to our values and the beliefs that have always sustained them,” she said.
"Our party is woven into the fabric of this nation from its very conception as a modern nation state,” she opined.
"Today I want to address some key threats to this fabric and the tensions and forces that are stretching it to a breaking point,” Gandhi said.
She attacked the BJP saying its "divisive" ideology is the "biggest threat" while it puts up "pretence" of moderation.
Facing BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as the main opponent, she said secularism was a matter of deep faith for the Congress and not a matter of political compulsion.
In 20-minute speech, she also touched on the issue of corruption, a major issue stalking the UPA II government, appealing to parties to rise above political considerations to ensure passage of anti-corruption measures pending in the Parliament.
"The biggest threat before the country is from communal forces and ideologies. Congress stands for uniting the people...but what is the approach of our main political opponent? I will tell you. You know it yourself,” she said.
"It is to divide the society on communal lines and spread hatred in the name of unity to impose a single identity. They hide their real face behind the mask of moderate pretensions. They criticize our leaders and level false allegations against them and they go to the extent of spreading violence. How can such an ideology be tolerated," Gandhi said.
She said the Congress workers should be proud that the party never compromised on its ideology. "For Congress, secularism is not a political compulsion but a matter of deep faith," she added.
"The CWC had taken a decision on Rahul Gandhi yesterday. And that is final," she said in significant remarks before she began her formal speech at the start of the day-long AICC session here as delegates demanded that the Congress vice-president be anointed PM candidate.
Rahul not to be anointed PM candidate
LS poll a battle for India: Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi attacks BJP