The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia steam for sluggish party

Calcutta, Feb. 10: Returning to the city after five years, Sonia Gandhi today sought to rejuvinate a limping Bengal Congress by striking a delicate balance between local and national issues.

In an address in Hindi at the Brigade Parade Grounds, the Congress president called for a spirited campaign against the ruling Marxists in the state while advocating a broad anti-BJP national alliance of secular forces.

The rally also marked the launch of the Congress’ campaign for the state panchayat polls scheduled for May, with Sonia asking the party to go on the offensive against the CPM.

The compulsion to take a strident stand against the CPM — a potential partner in the national secular alliance — in Bengal was evident throughout her address.

The 25-minute speech was littered with references to a host of local issues — economic crisis, flight of industry, crime against women, distress sale of paddy and uncertain payment of salaries of government employees.

“Where are these people (CPM) taking us in Bengal' The per capita income has fallen and the industries are shifting to other provinces. The farmers are not getting the right prices for crops. The state is in deep economic crisis,” she said.

“Their (the CPM’s) rule of terror does not even spare women. They have turned the lives of people into a narak (hell). Is ke khilaf Bangal mein Congress sangharsh karegi (Congress workers will fight CPM atrocities in Bengal),” she told an applauding crowd almost as big as the one at the Trinamul Congress rally on January 6.

Sonia slammed the CPM for teaming up with the BJP to prop up the V.P. Singh government 14 years ago. But minutes before leaving for Delhi, Sonia stressed on the need for a union of secular forces, including communists, to dislodge the BJP-led Centre. ( 0)

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