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April 22, 2000
Sonia vows to turn Bellary into another Amethi
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sworn to never forsake the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency, and assured the people that she would help develop the district into the Amethi of the South.
Addressing a moderate crowd at a public rally in the steel town of north Karnataka on a hot Saturday evening, Gandhi recalled her painful decision to forfeit the constituency in favour of Amethi after her electoral debut in the Lok Sabha election of 1999.
In an emotional tone, she sought to explain her compulsions to retain Amethi, which she won with a record margin of more than 300,000 votes, and give up Bellary, which she had won defeating the BJP's Sushma Swaraj in a battle royal.
"Though I had to resign from this constituency on technical grounds, I will never give up my commitment to the development of this district. I promise to do all that my husband Rajivji did to make Amethi what it is today," she said to thunderous applause from the crowd that had gathered on the municipal grounds, undeterred by the sweltering heat.
Profusely thanking the people for supporting her in her maiden attempt to enter Parliament, she sought to allay fears of a betrayal by redeeming her pledge to nurse the constituency. To that end, she laid a string of foundation stones in the town prior to the public address to kick-start the first phase of a Rs 33 billion developmental project launched by the Karnataka government led by techno-savvy Chief Minister S M Krishna.
The government has taken up on a war footing a drinking water supply development scheme in Bellary along with the second phase of the underground drainage scheme. Gandhi also initiated the building of the Sri Rajiv Gandhi Commercial Complex in Bellary town along with the construction of a residential school for minorities and a sports complex-cum-swimming pool.
The leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha also used the occasion to launch a blistering attack on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government for the planned review of the Constitution. Voice rising, she vowed to fight the Centre's "diabolical move" to change the basic structure of the statute.
Six months after she was voted to Parliament from Bellary and four months after she forfeited the seat, Gandhi today at last found the time to make a flying visit to the constituency on a hot afternoon.
Bellary is a Congress bastion that has never voted any other party's candidate to the Lok Sabha. So, mobilising a crowd for the foundation-stone ceremonies and public speeches were no big deal for the party.
As it was Gandhi's first visit to the constituency to which she had promised so much, the state government pulled out all stops to ensure that the electorate had no cause to complain about her decision to give the seat up.
The fact that the party's replacement candidate, Kolur Basavannagowda, easily won the by-election in February only proves that the love affair of Bellary and the Congress continues.
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