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Sonia sounds poll bugle in farmers' rally
March 09, 2008 17:16 IST
Riding high on the "historic" farm loan waiver, the Congress on Sunday virtually launched its election campaign with party chief Sonia Gandhi [Images] and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] attacking the BJP for neglecting the farm sector and for its handling of terrorism.
"Ulta Chor Kotwal Ko Daante (It is like pot calling the kettle black),' Sonia said addressing the party's Dhanyavad rally at the historic Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi, launching an attack on the BJP.
Sonia especially targeted BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, while Singh criticised the erstwhile BJP-led NDA government for "neglecting" the interests of farmers.
A highlight of the rally was Prime Minister's assurance that the farm loan waiver would be implemented by June this year, which is significant in the wake of questions being asked as to how the scheme would be put into operation.
"I promise you that there will be no laxity in implementing the decision and the whole package would be implemented by June," he said amidst applause by the huge crowd that comprised a large number of farmers from nearby states like Haryana, Punjab and UP.
Both Sonia and Singh refrained from making any reference to the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee also did not mention the issue, limiting himself to the pro-farmer steps taken by the UPA Government.
At the same time, Sonia voiced the party's concern on price rise, but said while there were international factors behind it, untiring efforts were on to tackle the problem.
Taking on the opposition party on the issue of terrorism, Sonia reminded that militant attacks on Raghunath and Akshardham temples as well as Parliament and the Kandahar hijack episode took place under the tenure of Advani as Home Minister.
Without naming Advani, she said while a senior leader of the BJP levelled accusations against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament, the Congress does not need their certificate.
"Our opponents can keep on spreading rumours and making accusations against us. We are not bothered. Our UPA government will continue to tread the path of progress," she said.
Sonia, in an apparent reference to the anti-North Indian campaign in Maharashtra, also declared that there should be no leniency towards those stoking regional and communal passions.
"Unity and integrity are the basic conditions for the progress of the nation and to fight terrorism. There should be no leniency towards those who seek to discriminate on the basis of religion and region," she said.
Hailing the Rs 60,000 crore farm loan waiver as a "historic" decision, the Prime Minister said there was nothing wrong in the move that would help the small farmer who is reeling under several problems.
"I don't consider it as a burden on the government but a duty towards them. In bad times, we even waive off the debts of big industrialists," Singh noted, adding the move would do a lot of good for the farmers and also improve the balance sheets of banks.