Ahmedabad: Once a fire breaks out, it is difficult to douse it, Rahul Gandhi said while taking charge as the new national president of the Congress party in New Delhi on Saturday. “That is what we are telling the people of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), 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,” he said.

Taking the stage at the official welcoming ceremony held two days before the counting of votes of the crucial Gujarat assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi said, “The Congress party took India into the 21st century, but the Prime Minister today is taking it back to medieval times. The current vision that is cast upon the nation belongs to the time when people did not have rights.”

“I have travelled across the country and have learnt that politics belongs to the people and that it is their strongest weapon. But today, it is used to crush them, not to lift them up,” he said.

“In the 13 years that I have served in politics, I have had the honour of listening and learning from all of you. Thank you for your lessons and advice. I am humbled by all the people who have stood here before me… It is with deepest humility that I accept this position knowing that I will always be walking in the shadow of giants,” the new Congress president said.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi won the Amethi seat that had previously been held by his mother, father Rajiv and uncle Sanjay, marking his entry in Indian politics. He retained the seat in 2009 and 2014.

Gandhi was appointed general secretary of the party in 2007 and was also given charge of the Youth Congress and the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), before being elected vice-president in 2013.

The Gandhi scion takes the reins of his party from his mother, who led the Congress for 20 years and saw the party lose power at the Centre, then regain it for two terms under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), before a resounding drubbing by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2014 general election.

Sonia Gandhi, who took charge of the party in 1998, addressed the gathering earlier, saying, “Twenty years ago, when I was elected Congress president, I was nervous about this new role. I was anxious about how to uphold the heritage of the party. I learnt the culture and heritage of this nation from Indira Gandhi. Just seven years after her assassination, my husband was assassinated, too. My pillar of support was stolen from me.”

“Rahul Gandhi’s leadership has commenced during the most challenging times. But this will only make him stronger… We all know how the values of our democratic and secular nation are under attack. This is an ethical fight. We should be ready to sacrifice anything for this,” she said.