Sonia Gandhi spends just 30 minutes in Kanyakumari to promote 39 candidates in Tamil Nadu. A Ganesh Nadar listens in.
Kanyakumari is the southern-most district of India. Congress President Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally on Wednesday. She arrived in a helicopter from Kerala at 12.30 pm and left in 30 minutes.
The crowd had filled in from 10 in the morning and sat through the event in blistering heat. A few women left mid-way as till noon there was no information of Sonia’s movements.
Sonia Gandhi spoke for about 25 minutes. The ground had a capacity of 5,000 people and about 6,000 turned up, so it looked crowded.
While there were banners of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and two long since dead Tamil Nadu Congress leaders -- K Kamaraj and G K Moopanar -- there was not a single banner of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Sonia began her speech with three words in Tamil: Sagodarar Sagodarigale, Vanakkam (greetings to my brothers and sisters).
She said she was very happy to be "in this beautiful district". She said Kanyakumari was known for its peace and harmony and that is why Swami Vivekananda meditated here before getting enlightened and taking his message to the world. She reminded the people that the great Congress leader Kamaraj has represented Parliament from here.
She claimed that the United Progressive Alliance had maintained a healthy growth rate of 7.5 percent for the last 10 years in spite of the global economic crisis. They had lifted 14 crore people above the poverty line and had spent lots of money on healthcare and education, she said.
Outlining her government’s other achievements on infrastructure, she also said they had empowered women, Dalits, minorities and others.
She said they had given higher prices for land acquisition, had brought in laws to protect women at the workplace, gave the nation the right to information. “I take great pride in the fact that no government has done as much as the UPA,” she said.
She said former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi gave his life for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause and Indira Gandhi gave her life for national unity. “Since 2009 they were doing everything to rehabilitate the Lankan Tamils,” she said. She reminded them that she had brought back fishermen from Lanka every time they were arrested.
She said this time communalism and money had come together and that it was a dangerous combination. "The Bharatiya Janata Party has become a one-man party," she said. This man has a solution to everything, she added sarcastically.
“The BJP doesn’t have the right idea of India where people live together harmoniously. Secularism and reservations for the weak and minorities will always be there. We must fight those who endanger the idea of this India,” she declared.
In Tamil Nadu, she said, she was not alone, the people were her allies. She promised the right to health, housing and pension in the unorganised sector, for widows, handicapped and the poor. She also promised vocational training for the youth.
The translation by veteran Tamil Nadu Congress leader Peter Alphonso was deplorable and far from the truth.
She also promised Kanyakumari a double railway track from Chennai, an airport, and a central university.
She ended asking the people to vote for the hand symbol that Indira Gandhi gave us. “A vote for the Congress is a vote for a strong, young, stable government. We will give you inclusive growth, communal harmony and peace,” she promised.
Image: Sonia Gandhi addresses an election meeting in Kanyakumari. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com