|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Launching Congress campaign, Sonia woos Mumbai
December 23, 2006 19:03 IST
Last Updated: December 23, 2006 19:27 IST
Launching her party's campaign for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday warned against 'divisive forces' that resort to violence to 'capture' power at any cost.
"Some elements want to gain power at any cost and they are even ready to resort to violence to achieve it," Sonia said, addressing a large public meeting at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai.
Whether in power or in opposition, Congress has always handled its role in a responsible manner, unlike 'some elements' who lose balance if they are not in power, she said without naming any party.
"It is our responsibility to defeat the designs of these elements," she said. "These elements want to weaken our social integrity. From whatever section of society we belong to, we are first and foremost Indians."
Sonia cited various developmental projects being implemented for Mumbai by the United Progressive Alliance government.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government have given priority to Mumbai's development," she said. "The city holds a special place for me as my late husband was born here."
Projects are being implemented under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission for providing homes to urban poor, repair of old buildings, sewage renovation and is providing thousands of crores for the same, Sonia said.
Sonia highlighted the efforts made by the UPA government for welfare of minorities.
"We have set up a separate ministry for minorities. The prime minister has announced a 15-point programme for minorities' welfare," she said.
Stating that women are better suited to identifying what is right and what is wrong, Sonia said the government was taking various measures for betterment of women, adivasis and poor sections of society and was enacting legislations towards this end.
Congress has a tradition of 'sacrifice and service', Sonia said.
"It is a party which wants to build India's future," she said.
There was a large turnout for the rally, which is being seen as a wake-up call for the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, which is making efforts to retain power in the municipal elections.
Shivaji Park, normally associated with the Dussehra rallies of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, was filled with Congress supporters, who had come to the central Mumbai venue from all over the city and outside.
They came in droves, some in private vehicles, while some came in 'padyatras' organised by local party MLAs.
Just before her speech, Sonia was presented a golden sword by the party's Mumbai unit. She pulled it out from the sheath and brandished it for a few moments.
Although senior Congress leaders went out of the way to emphasise that Saturday's meeting had nothing to do with the civic polls as it was being organised to mark the party's 121st anniversary on December 28, Sonia focussed on minorities and Dalits in her 15-minute speech.
She voiced her anguish over the Dalit killings at Khairlanji, saying 'our heads bow in shame over the incident'.
Stating that CBI was probing the case, she hoped for a 'speedy probe and punishment to the guilty'.
Before her speech, Sonia went to the nearby Ambedkar memorial at Chaityabhumi and paid respects to the gather of the Indian Constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar. "We will never forget his role in drafting the Constitution," she said.
The response to the rally was significant, considering that NCP, which shares power in the state and Centre with Congress, had organised a 'parallel' meeting in the ,city which was addressed by Sharad Pawar.
Besides Sonia, others present on stage included Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, MPCC president Prabha Rau, AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra affairs Margaret Alva, Union Ministers Shivraj Patil, A R Antulay, Sushilkumar Shinde, Murli Deora, Vilas Muttemwar, Prithviraj Chavan, MRCC president Gurudas Kamat, revenue minister Narayan Rane, actor-MP Govinda and MPs Priya Dutt, Milind Deora and Eknath Gaikwad.