The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia calls off Valley trip

New Delhi, Sept. 12: Security considerations have come in the way of Sonia Gandhi’s election campaign in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Congress president today called off her visit to Jammu following the Centre’s advisory. The state government also expressed its inability to provide her adequate security in the wake of the increased attacks by militants who are intent on derailing the four-phase elections beginning on Monday.

But the state Congress, fearing that Sonia’s absence might affect the party’s prospects, alleged that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and chief minister Farooq Abdullah did not allow her to visit the state.

“The Union home ministry disallowed her to address a rally in Rajouri district,” said state unit chief Ghulam Nabi Azad. “The Special Protection Group in charge of Sonia’s security had written to the Prime Minister disfavouring her visit following yesterday’s terrorist attack.”

Sixteen people, including state law minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, were yesterday gunned down in two separate strikes. One of the attacks was close to a Congress election rally that was attended by Azad and senior leaders Amarinder Singh and Ambika Soni.

Azad sought to comfort party workers, saying: “Inshallah (God willing), Sonia Gandhi will be the Prime Minister within two years. We should not put our leader in danger for one or two meetings, particularly when we have lost Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to terrorists.”

Sonia was today scheduled to address meetings at Mandher and Naushera in Rajouri. She would have visited the Valley on September 14, but now it is unlikely she would campaign.

“She is scheduled to visit Srinagar on Saturday but a lot would depend upon inputs from the Union home ministry and the Special Protection Group,” a party general secretary close to Sonia said. 10, Janpath insiders, however, said Sonia would not risk a trip.

According to Congress functionaries, Sonia would go by the home ministry’s directives.

“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is such that we would not take any risk,” said a source.

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