New Delhi: Buffeted by charges of corruption against its government, a combative Congress Sunday hit out at detractors saying it would give them a "fitting reply" and also touted the benefits of its economic reforms agenda in a massive show of strength here.
An aggressive Congress president Sonia Gandhi took on the opposition parties and the anti-corruption activists head-on at a rally held in Ramlila Ground, while Prime Minister Mammohan Singh stressed that the economic reforms were needed to create more jobs.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wasn't very impressed, terming the rally "anti-people".
The rally in the heart of the national capital took a major toll on vehicular movement on major thoroughfares, choking several roads and huge traffic snarls were reported from all over the city. Nearly 3,000 buses from Rajasthan and Haryana and another 2,000 buses from the capital itself disgorged thousands of Congress supporters to the rally venue in central Delhi.
Addressing a massive crowd, estimated to be over 50,000, the prime minister said the move to allow FDI and hiking diesel prices in the face of much opposition were aimed at ushering in faster economic reforms that "will help the country to progress and earn more money to launch welfare schemes to help the poor people".
He said the economic reforms were needed to create more jobs. "People are being misled about our recent economic decisions."
The UPA has just about 18 months to go before the 2014 general elections and the mega rally is seen as a first step to giving a boost to the morale of cadres in the face of corruption charges, including faulty coal blocks allocation, the 2G spectrum issue, and the recent allegations by India Against Corruption.
In a reiteration of his Sep 21 address to the nation, the prime minister said FDI was beneficial for farmers and would not hurt small traders. He also mentioned the government's subsidy bill to justify the hike in diesel prices. The Trinamool Congress had walked out of the UPA government over the economic move, which has been slammed by the opposition parties, while UPA ally Samajwadi Party too has voiced concern.
Taking on the opposition, including the anti-corruption activists, Sonia Gandhi challenged them saying the truth and untruth in their charges needs to be understood well.
"We will give a fitting reply," she said amid cheers from the party loyalists.
"I admit, corruption is a cancer... is a disease... But we have fought this disease before and we will continue to fight this disease with all strength once again," she said.
"We will fight all graft charges against us and none found guilty will be spared," she asserted.
Indirectly hitting out at BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, who has been targeted by the IAC's Arvind Kejriwal for alleged financial impropriety in the running of his Purti Group, she said: "Those who are talking about corruption are finding themselves neck-deep in corruption."
Sonia Gandhi attacked the opposition for not allowing key legislation to be passed or discussed in parliament. The BJP had stalled the monsoon session of parliament over alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks.
BJP's Arun Jaitley asked the ruling party leaders why they had "skipped" the "2G spectrum and coal block allocations, and the corruption allegations against their leaders".
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said: "This rally will only benefit America", referring to allowing FDI.
At the rally, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to be anointed the party's number two in a major organisational move, said the UPA government will get the stalled Lokpal bill passed by parliament soon.
However, Rahul's remarks, drawing a parallel with the Kargil war, while asking BJP's support to the UPA government's policy raked up a controversy.
The Congress heir-apparent said his party had supported the then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government during the 1999 Kargil battle and asked the BJP to reciprocate the gesture to the UPA's policies.
This remark drew a sharp reaction from Arun Jaitley, who said: "No one takes national security as seriously as we (BJP) do, but we will not support corruption (of the UPA)."
The Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat said: "We dare the government to get the approval of parliament for its FDI policy."
Karat said his party will talk to all opposition leaders to raise their voice against the FDI during the winter session of parliament beginning Nov 22.