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Relaxed Sonia hosts Journalists for lunch

Onkar Singh and Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | February 07, 2004 18:06 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday brushed aside Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's claim that the National Democratic Alliance will be swept back to power in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

"We are contesting to win the elections," she said emphatically and charged that the BJP top brass is so rattled by the very mention of the names of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi that even the prime minister made a direct reference to the two in his first election speech in New Delhi on Saturday.

Gandhi was speaking to reporters at a lunch hosted by her at her 10, Janpath residence. She went from table to table mingling freely with the assembled journalists.

Asked if Rahul and Priyanka would contest the coming Lok Sabha elections, she said it was for them to decide.

When a journalist pointed out that that a survey has predicted drastic changes in poll equations if Rahul and Priyanka enter politics, Gandhi said she is not aware of any such poll, but if it indicates that their entry into politics will turn things around for the party, then that's good news.

She admitted the task of getting the secular forces together is difficult but said she will continue to strive for the opposition unity. "We are aware that some people are threatening our possible poll partners. Things would work out soon," she said.

Asked about the recent meeting of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati with a former chief minister of UP, Gandhi said people say all sorts of things in politics, but what happens eventually is something else.

She admitted there are some problems in the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the party. "There is no infighting. We do have some problems and these would be sorted out soon," she said.

The Congress president revealed that she will travel by road across the country in the run-up to the general elections. "I begin a tour of Uttar Pradesh from Monday and then I go to Orissa. The effort would be to contact the people and travel by car as much as possible," she said.

One point which she made at almost all the tables she stopped at was that sincerity and hard work alone would deliver the goods for the party. "Politicians have to realise this...you got to be transparent."


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