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Gandhi, Pawar get cosy in Nashik
Tara Shankar Sahay in Nashik |
October 05, 2004 20:07 IST
Last Updated: October 05, 2004 22:22 IST
Whether it was the importance of the event or the grapes the city is famous for, Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar chose Nashik to make a public display of their new-found friendship.
The event was the first joint rally of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party in Nashik in northern Maharashtra. Over a 100,000 people had gathered at the Golf Club Ground to hear the two.
While NCP chief Sharad Pawar made a quiet entry and took his seat on the dais, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi waited till the dust had settled before making her entry, which enthused the crowd.
It was quite apparent that the crowd was curious to see Gandhi and the Congress chief's election managers had taken care to time her entry into the venue. Anxious men, women and children repeatedly craned their necks and elbowed and jostled each other to get a glimpse of her, proving that the Gandhi charisma is intact.
People never tire of Sonia's 'regal' presence is how veteran local Congress activist Shantaram Naik chose to describe the phenomenon.
Pawar watched as the people cheered Sonia's arrival and roared when she greeted them by waving at them.
As these two leaders awaited their turn to speak, they smiled and chatted with each other, sending the right signals to the voters.
Naik pointed out that, while attending a rally in Thane district during the parliamentary polls, the duo pointedly ignored each other even as they sat side by side.
The public display of camaraderie may go a long way in convincing voters that the alliance was not struck purely for the sake of poll arithmetic. It is also expected to boost the morale of party workers.
Though believed to be ailing, Pawar appeared a transformed man when he faced the audience. Jettisoning his normal reticent, he spoke with passion, eliciting sympathy when he commiserated with the plight of the farmers in the state and laughter when he took a dig at his opponents.
Speaking in his native Marathi, Pawar blamed the farmers' woes on the National Democratic Alliance government's apathy.
Gandhi did not say anything apart from what she had said in her earlier rallies in the state. She described Maharashtra as dharm ki dharti and karm ki dharti.
Ridiculing Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti's 'Tiranga yatra', she pointed out that the country did not need political drama but good governance.
She said while the people had dislodged the corrupt and misguided NDA government, they had not given a clear majority to the UPA government. She appealed to the voters to return the Congress-NCP Democratic Front government to power with ample majority.
She elicited tremendous cheers by concluding her 20-minute speech with an appeal in Marathi to vote for the Congress-NCP combine.
Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India (Athawale faction) was the other top leader to address the gathering.