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Home > Election > Report

Sonia takes BJP to task in Rajkot

R Swaminathan in Rajkot | December 09, 2002 00:39 IST

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday took the Bharatiya Janata Party by the scruff of its neck on the issue of terrorism.

A visibly angry Sonia, addressing a massive rally in Rajkot, said those who have made no sacrifices at the "altar of terrorism" should keep their mouth shut.

Referring to the reported statement of a Central minister that former prime ministers Rajeev Gandhi and Indira Gandhi were responsible for the rise of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, an emotional Sonia Gandhi said: "Who died at the hands of terrorists? Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi."

"So many years after Indiraji's death, these people dare to raise a finger against her? They are the same cowardly people who flew terrorists to Kandahar in a special plane. They should now keep quiet," she said. "Every woman of Gujarat, who is a daughter, sister or mother of Indira Gandhi will give a befitting reply on December 12," she said to a massive roar from the 70,000-plus crowd.

She said all the talk of rajdharam by the BJP is hollow. "It is easy to talk. But rajdharam is followed by adhering to principles." She said that for the Congress it [rajdharam] was not a means to power, claiming that under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi India progressed rapidly.

Taking the BJP to task on the lack of development work in Gujarat she said, "Both the Centre and the Narendra Modi government have put Gujarat on the path to destruction."

She then took the battle to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, slamming him for praising Narendra Modi for "developing" Gujarat. "I have come to know that Rajkot gets only four hours of electricity every day. I fail to understand how four hours of electricity can satisfy anyone."

Pumping up the tempo, she referred to the efforts made by her party to connect the Kandla port to a broad gauge railway line. She claimed that the Kandla Port Trust, despite getting a loan of Rs 50 million sanctioned five years back, is still sitting on the gauge conversion project.

Referring to the cooperative bank scam, she held caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi responsible for the losses suffered by the people. "A government which can gobble up the hard-earned savings of the people can never protect Gujarat."

Without making a direct reference to the post-Godhra riots, she said, "I know how much pain is there in the heart of every resident of Gujarat and I also know how much each one of you wants to lead a life of peace and prosperity."

She said that the Congress wants to restore the Gujarati identity and pride, which both the Centre and the state governments have destroyed.

Exhorting the people to vote for the Congress, she described the Gujarat election as a "turning point," which will leave an impact for a long time.

Criticising those who raked up religious issues in the arena of politics, she said that such people did not know the true meaning of religion. "All religions of the world preach love and humanity and not hatred," she said.

Making a direct attack on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, she said the outfit was "hired" by the BJP to raise contentious issues, which the party wanted raised but did not have the courage to do itself.

Describing the Indian culture as "liberal", she said that it encompassed everybody and placed "humanity" as its guiding principle. She added that compassion flowed from it, not hatred.

She claimed that the BJP is raising the issue of Pakistan and terrorism to hide its deficiencies, but added in the same breath that her party was committed to eradication of terrorism and had already promised all cooperation to the Central government.

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Shankersinh Vaghela alleged that the BJP government had siphoned off Rs 700 crore meant for the Narmada project. He promised that if the Congress is voted to power, it will ensure a Rs 700 per month pension to all widows.

He ended his speech by exhorting the people to give a crushing reply to the "BJP goondagardi."

All India Congress Committee member in charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath, and political adviser to Sonia Gandhi, Ambika Soni, were also present.


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