New Delhi, Dec 16: In his first speech after formally taking over as new Congress President, Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking the country back to "medieval times" and the BJP of dividing people and spreading hatred.
"BJP breaks, we join. They set fire, we douse it. They spread hate, we spread love. They divide, we bring people together - that is what tells us apart," he said at a simple ceremony on the AICC lawns where he was handed over the Election Certificate by the Returning Officer Mullapally Ramachandran.
Watched by Sonia Gandhi, who handed over the mantle to him, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top leaders, he said: "Many of us are disillusioned today because of the politics of our time. Politics belongs to the people. But today, politics is not being used to uplift people, but to crush them.
"The Congress took India to the 21st Century, but the PM, today, is taking us back to the medieval times... We are now being compelled to imagine that businesses can be built without harmony, that only one man himself is the voice of reason, and that expertise, experience and knowledge can be cast aside for personal glory," Rahul Gandhi said.
"You have an example in front of you. Once fire breaks out it is difficult to douse it. That is what we are telling the people of BJP, that if you set the nation on fire it will be difficult to control. Today, the BJP has spread the fire of violence across the country."
The 47-year-old Gandhi scion said like many Indians across the country, he was an idealist. "I joined politics 13 years ago because of my profound belief in the country and its people.
"We fight for those who cannot fight alone. This spirit of our freedom movement is the light of our party today. We consider the BJP as our brothers and sisters, but we do not agree with them. They (BJP) crush voices but we allow them to speak, they defame, we respect and defend," added Gandhi.
He slammed the Centre, saying people are being killed for what they eat which "shames us as a country".
"I realised that the moment you stand for the poor, those in power hit you hard every way they can," he said.
The Congress President said he wanted the party to become an "instrument of dialogue between Indian people, irrespective of religion or other factors, and that dialogue is to be led by love".
Congress has always and will always meet any challenge with love and affection, he added.