Home > News > Elections 2004 > Report
'Sonia beat Advani by weeks'
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi |
March 12, 2004 18:42 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's face lit up when she was told that Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani was undertaking a countrywide yatra.
She told party leaders that day Advani's yatra was in reaction to her jan sampark (mass contact) programme.
'Advaniji's yatra looks like an exercise by Vajpayeeji's government to atone for their sins -- that is, five years of misrule,' she said, triggering laughter among her colleagues.
Then, on a serious note, the Congress chief expressed her determination to continue her programme, which started eight weeks earlier from Uttar Pradesh.
She has received a warm response from milling crowds as she journeyed through Haryana, Assam and Orissa.
According to her schedule, Gandhi, who is in Andhra Prdesh, will also travel to Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Party leaders have been asked to follow up on these visits.
The Congress has selected veterans like Pranab Mukherjee, Dr Manmohan Singh and Arjun Singh and also young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot for this purpose.
"Our party chief has beaten him by weeks," Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi said referring to Advani's yatra. He said the response that Gandhi was getting had shaken the BJP. "If this is not panic reaction, what is?"
He claimed the yatra suited Advani because he wanted to move from North Block (where the home ministry is located) to South Block (where the Prime Minister's Office is located). "But I wonder what Vajpayeeji's inner thoughts are."
All India Congress Committee media secretary Tom Vadakkan said, "The yatra is specifically designed to counter and control our party chief's jan sampark."
The Congress chief's determination to reach out to the people is reflected in her desire, he said, to travel in an open vehicle, often a station wagon, so that she can shake hands and receive garlands.
Some party leaders feel Gandhi should exercise restraint, but she has proved unstoppable. She has asked her security personnel not to stop people from coming close to her.
Party spokesman Anand Sharma, who accompanied her during her journey through Himachal Pradesh, says, "From morning to late evening, Mrs Gandhi is busy with her jan sampark. This is besides the meetings with senior leaders in the states. I don't know from where she summons those extra reserves of energy."
Gandhi does yoga for at least an hour every day, a party worker said.
The Congress chief is not fastidious about food and eats "whatever is available," another activist said.
"Her instruction to party leaders in the states is that they should desist from making special arrangements for her as her jan sampark means business and not pleasure," Vadakkan said.
It is not that she does not savour non-vegetarian food; at the lunch she threw at her 10, Janpath home for journalists three weeks ago, she bowed to demands to extricate herself from endless conversations and eat something.
She relished the parathas and galauti kebabs, of which the journalists had their fill.