My dear Congress Colleagues and workers,
This is my last address to you as Congress President, as you face a new era under a new leadership.
Nearly twenty years ago, when I stood before you to address you for the first time as your chosen
President, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking. I could not think how I would manage to take charge
of this historic organization. It was a formidable and onerous task that confronted me.
Until then my connection with politics had been entirely personal. As you all know, it was through my marriage
that I came into contact with politics. Indiraji was the daughter of a revolutionary family which
had surrendered its wealth and ease for the Independent movement. Each and every member of this family
had been to prison in the cause of freedom. Indiraji accepted me as a daughter and from her, I
learned about the culture of this country, about those principles on which this nation was founded.
In 1984, when she was assassinated, I felt as if I had lost my own mother. That catastrophe changed forever
the course of my life. I had a different view of politics at that time and I had wanted to keep my
husband and children as far away from it as possible. But a heavy responsibility fell on his shoulders
and despite my pleas, Rajiv ji accepted as a duty the post of Prime Minister. He worked hard day
and night to fulfill this responsibility. With him I travelled to remote corners of the country,
came to understand something of our people’s problems and the challenges facing our country.
Then, just seven years after the death of Indiraji, my husband too was assassinated. I lost my anchor
and my support. It was many years later that I could emerge from my shell. Only when I came to feel
that the Congress was facing a crisis, and that communal forces were gaining strength, did I feel
compelled to respond to the call of the Party workers. I felt that my turning away from this summons
would negate the sacrifice of my mother-in-law’s life and my husband’s life. So I entered politics —
to fulfill a duty to my family, party and country.
At that time, as far as I remember, we had only three States governments and were far from a government
at the Centre. Meeting this challenge was not a marvel achieved by any one individual. With all your
continued efforts we regained our strength and one after the other formed governments in more than two
Such an outcome is the result of determination, dedication and fidelity to principles. Lakhs of
Congress party workers along with those sections of society that have been with us all along, expressed
their faith in us.
My dear brothers and sisters, lakhs of Congress workers, all of you have been with me all the way
through this journey. I thank you all for remaining by my side at every turn. What I have learned and
understood from you is immeasurable. Together we have faced many challenges. At the start of my
Presidentship we fought to keep the Party united and focused. With changing circumstances we took on
the part of main Opposition and for five years we stoutly defended the core values of the Independence
struggle and the Constitution.
After 2004, together with some like-minded parties, for ten years we gave the people a responsible and
progressive government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh that worked for all sections of our society. We are
proud that during this period we brought in rights-based laws securing for our poor brothers and
sisters their rights to food, education, employment, information etc.
Since 2014, we have been playing the part of the Opposition. Never before have we faced the challenge
that we face today. The fundamentals of our Constitution are under attack. Our party has lost several
state elections. But an exemplary energy fires our Congress workers. We are not ones to bend in fear,
because our struggle is a fight for the very soul of this nation. We will never retreat from this
Today you, the leaders and workers of the Congress, are the custodians of the ideals and principles on
which our nation was built.
This is no small matter. It is not power, wealth or self-importance that is our aim, it is this country
— it is safeguarding our fundamental principles. We are all witness to the daily attacks against
freedom of speech and expression, against our culture of diversity, and its replacement with an
atmosphere of suspicion and fear. The Congress must look within in order to forge ahead. If we do not
stand by our principles, we will not be able to wage this fight. It is a battle of righteousness, and
we must fit ourselves in order to attain success.
India is a young country. I am confident that with a new and young leadership our party will be
reinvigorated and bring about the changes we need. You have chosen Rahul as your leader. He is my son,
and it would not be suitable for me to praise him. But this much I will say –while from his very
childhood he has borne the experience of violence, the savage personal attacks he has confronted since
entering politics has served to make him a brave and stout-hearted man. I am proud of his endurance and
firmness, and I am confident he will lead the Party with a pure heart, patience and devotion.
As all of you go forward on your new path, I will be there to rejoice in your achievements. May this
path be lit with the wisdom, high principles and great traditions of our forbears, and may you fulfill
the hopes and aspirations of crores of our youth.
Friends, twenty years have passed, almost a lifetime… In laying down this office I thank all of you,
the workers of our Party and the people of my country with all my heart for the boundless love and
confidence they have showered on me.
Thank you. Jai Hind.