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Rahul Gandhi seeks support in Sivaganga

Last updated on: April 7, 2011 15:30 IST

Rahul Gandhi seeks support in Sivaganga

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A Ganesh Nadar reports on a public meeting addressed by Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed a public meeting at Kaladaikurichi, Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu at 5 pm on April 6. He was seeking votes for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress candidates for the assembly elections due in Tamil Nadu on April 13.

The ground, where Rahul Gandhi was to address a public meeting, is quite small and can seat about 5,000 people. All the chairs were filled up when he arrived and there were another 5,000 people outside watching curiously.

The police searched every individual, diligently, before letting them in. There was a separate space enclosed by curtains for women to be searched.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had organised this meeting, came on stage. He announced, "My request to the police is that they hurry up with the checking and let in the people quickly."

The police then started working faster but the checking was as thorough as ever. They did not want to take any chances.
There was an announcement that Rahul Gandhi had finished his meeting in nearby Karur and had taken off on his helicopter. After a while there was another announcement that he had landed and was on his way.

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Image: Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally at Kaladaikurichi, Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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Nothing significant achieved by AIADMK: Chidambaram

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Rahul's convoy was led and preceded by the police. His Special Protection Group was also present in full force. His arrival evoked a loud enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, which had listened quietly to songs about Sonia Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Kamaraj and other Congress leaders till then.

The local Congress leaders and candidates welcomed him with ponnadais (shawls). Obviously some one had told them that flower garlands were not welcome -- surprising in a state that likes to welcome its leaders with huge rose garlands.

Chidambaram gave the welcome address. He said he would speak for only three to four minutes. He recalled that Rajiv Gandhi always said that the 21st century would belong to India. Now everyone knew that India and China were the new leaders of this century.

Every time he mentioned Sonia, Rajiv or Rahul the crowd clapped. Then he praised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. This was also well received by the assembled crowd.

The first decade of the 21st century had seen two governments in Tamil Nadu. The first of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and then the DMK. He said their alliance with the DMK was there since 2004. "You supported us in 2004 (Lok Sabha), 2006 (assembly) and 2009 (Lok Sabha) elections. Please support us again," he said.

He spoke about all the good schemes of the DMK government in the last five years. He said that nothing significant was achieved by the AIADMK government. The crowd listened patiently. He ended his speech with "Jai Hind."

Image: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram

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Empowering poor only way to make country prosperous: Rahul

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Rahul Gandhi read out the names of all the candidates contesting in this area both from the Congress and the DMK. He had some difficulty with pronouncing their names but he managed well. He greeted the crowd with, "My brothers and sisters."

He said that he would like to thank the people for allowing them to run a successful government both at the Centre and state. (The audience clapped). "Thank you for allowing us to work for the poor of the country." (more clapping). He said that both the governments at the Centre and the state believed that empowering the poor was the only way to make the country prosperous. "We see all people as one, we do not see caste or religious differences".

"Chidambaramji pointed out how both governments had worked together to bring in prosperity. But I am not satisfied. The growth has to reach the poor, it has to be distributed to the poor. So all programs both central and state operate for the poor," he said.

Image: Rahul Gandhi waves during the campaign in Tamil Nadu
Photographs: Reuters
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'Thank you, Kalaingar for the good schemes in TN'

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It is very important to give work to the poor. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was implemented for that. This scheme has been praised all over the world as 100 days employment in a year is guaranteed. Other countries want to implement this scheme," said Rahul Gandhi.

He continued, "Farmers give their blood and sweat for the country. So we waived 70,000 crore of their debts. We told the banks to give them more loans. We serve food to poor children through our noon meal scheme."

"We understood that women play an important role in the development of the country and so we gave them 50 per cent reservation in panchayats. We will give them 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and the assemblies," he promised.

He said that the DMK and the Congress were working together in both the state and the Centre. "We thank Kalaignar (TN chief minister) for all the good schemes in Tamil Nadu." (loud applause greeted this).
He said that Tamil Nadu was among the foremost states in industry, automobile manufacture, software and information technology. He said that this state was ahead in education and health-care. He mentioned that rice was sold for Rs 1 per kilo in ration shops.


Image: Security personnel conduct checks at the rally
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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'We want to make Tamil Nadu a knowledge hub'

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The Congress general secretary mentioned that Rs 1 lakh crore had come from the Centre to the state in the last five years. "We will work in a partnership to build Tamil Nadu and India," he declared. He said that a medical college has been started in Kalladaikurichi recently. Many new colleges had come up here recently.

"We want to make a knowledge hub here. Then develop the skills of the local youth. Then they will find work here". He ended with, "We have a very old relationship with Tamil Nadu. My family is close to Tamil Nadu. It is my honour to carry on this relationship. I admire the Tamil people for what they have done here and in the rest of the world. Thank you."

Loud applause greeted his speech and people waved out to him as he left the stage. He was in a hurry to leave, since his helicopter would not be allowed to take off after dark.

Chidambaram's son Karthi Chidambaram translated Rahul Gandhi's speech into Tamil.

The crowd dispersed quietly. There was no slogan shouting. "All the people who came here will vote for the Congress-DMK combine as they are all our supporters," claimed a participant at the rally.

Very few members of the public participated. They were standing outside and all they wanted was a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi. They were happy to see him but did not promise to vote for him. "We might" was the only response.

Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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