Taking a dig at the ruling BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said for the first time a fascist organisation has got decisive power and his party was the "biggest force" fighting it.
Referring to the RSS, he said: "For the first time in the history of our country, a fascist organisation that is openly opposed to the ideology and values of the Constitution has acquired decisive power over the Union of India.
"The stated purpose of the RSS is to establish a theocratic, autocratic state in India. To achieve this goal, it has to destroy the current liberal, progressive, secular, social democratic republic," he said.
He was giving the valedictory speech at a national conference on "No peace without freedom, No freedom without peace: Securing Nehru's vision and India's future" to celebrate of the 125th birth anniversary of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Replying to a question from one of the panelists, Rahul said: "We are the biggest force that fought the RSS."
On Nehruvian thinking, he said: "Nehru's idea was that each Indian, no matter how poor or weak, understands the universe around him. And that knowledge comes through practice and experience. Nobody can claim a monopoly on truth. Each Indian has his and her own unique perspective that informs and adds to India's understanding of the world."
"When the RSS and the BJP deny this, they are not just being intolerant. They are disrespecting the power and agency of the Indian people. They are disrespecting and denying the Indian people their dignity.
He asked why all of India must be subjected to the hateful mediocrity of (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat on national television.
"If we are viewing this as the victory of the RSS, this is false. This is the time for the Congress party and yourselves to re-establish a relationship, to have discussion and to bring forth the ideas that are going to help us defeat the RSS," he said.
"Secularism is in the blood of the Congress. Respect for everybody is the DNA of our organisation. We just need to reinvigorate that. Then you'll see the Congress idea will smash the RSS and the BJP."
The Congress leader said: "What brings us together today is our deep concern about the assault on our liberty, on our rights and our democratic space. We are here because both peace and freedom have been viciously wounded in our country.
He paid homage to the memory of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi, saying they "were martyred for nothing more than their opinions".
"We pay homage to Akhlaq and Mohsin Sheikh, who were martyred for being Muslim," said Rahul. "We condemn all attacks on freedom of speech and expression, faith and worship, thought and belief," he added.
He said the Congress deals with the equation of power. "It is forced to deal with the equation of power. When I work in the Congress party, I have to deal with the idea of power. We cannot wish away the idea of power. It exists and I have to operate within that."