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What has Chandrababu done for you, Sonia asks

A Ganesh Nadar in Mehboobnagar | April 16, 2004 12:15 IST
Last Updated: April 16, 2004 14:08 IST

The Government Boys' Junior College ground in Mehboobnagar, Andhra Pradesh is huge. At 1400 IST on Thursday, it is slowly filling up, as trucks unload men, women and children from nearby villages and towns. Most of them are poorly dressed and look tired. It's a hot day -- 45 degrees Celsius.

The Congress mobilisation looks impressive. The party is not taking any chances. It is, after all, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's rally.

The Cops look relaxed. It's not hard to engage them in a conversation.

The meeting was scheduled for 2 pm. It's already been delayed by an hour. Gandhi is running late from her last rally at Nizamabad.

The ground is filling up rapidly now. Congress flags flutter weakly in the wind. There are Congress shirts, Congress caps and some people even have Congress flags draped around their shoulders.

The Congress flags have a hand -- the party's symbol -- in the middle, a picture of Rajiv Gandhi on one side and Sonia
on the other. Some have a map of Andhra Pradesh.

The Congress ally, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti's flags are barely visible.

The sitting MP in Mehboobnagar is a Bharatiya Janata Party man. But he is not contesting this time. The Congress candidate is Vittal Rao. He is up against the ruling Telugu Desam Party's Y Yella Reddy.

At 1440 IST it is announced that 'Madam' would be arriving in 15 minutes.

The Tribal women sitting right in the front straighten up. Somebody sure wants Sonia Gandhi to see them.

At 1518 IST a helicopter passes overhead. The crowd is up on its feet cheering and waving. Ten minutes later Sonia is on the stage waving to the people. The crowd roars.

After Ghulam Nabi Azad's apologies for the delay, Sonia begins her speech. And she takes the TDP straight on, counting the promises not kept by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Reminding the people that this time they would be voting for both the state and Union governments, she urges them to think deeply before exercising their franchise.

Touching upon local issues, Sonia asks what the TDP has done about the drought in Mehboobnagar and its surrounding areas. "The money has been diverted to other regions," she says.

Reminding the gathering that the foundation of the country's development was laid by the Congress by building dams and industries, she says it was Indira Gandhi who brought in technology and Rajeev Gandhi who brought in the computer revolution.

Sonia promises that all sections of the society will get equal attention under the Congress rule. "We will develop Andhra and Telengana, Rayalseema and coastal Andhra. The farmers must be saved. We can do that with your vote. Vote for the Congress and the TRS. Teach the BJP and TDP a lesson," she says.

The speech ends with a 'Jai Hind'. Two tribal women present Sonia with a ornate dress. She wraps it around her and
poses for photographers.

Trucks and buses start lining up to take the people back to their villages.


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