| Sonia Gandhi at the election campaign in New Delhi on Saturday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Aug. 9: The sky was sombre and overcast. The threat of a downpour hung throughout. At a function marking the 61st anniversary of the launch of the Quit India movement by Mahatma Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi chose equally sombre words to urge the people to throw out the BJP-led central government.
Referring to the BJP’s practice of invoking Ram’s name whenever elections are round the corner, the Congress chief said the party was hoodwinking Ram himself.
The BJP remembers Ram only at election time. “Yeh sochtein hain ki issey unki asliyat chhup jayegi,” Sonia said. “I only want to say ‘Hey Ram!’ Save the country from such devotees who are bent upon destroying Ram’s maryada,” the Congress chief said to loud cheers from the crowd.
A large crowd waited for three hours at the Laxmi Nagar district centre park to hear Sonia despite the mild drizzle and ankle-deep slush.
The open park in the east Delhi suburb where Sonia launched her party’s Delhi poll campaign today is in sharp contrast to the closed Talkatora stadium where deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will launch the BJP’s parivartan rally tomorrow.
Sonia told the crowd that the Congress had never discriminated along caste and communal lines for political advantage. Referring to the “martyrdom” of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, she said: “The language of gun and bullets is easy but many do not have the guts to eat bullets for our society and the country.”
The Congress chief attacked the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance for its “failure on all fronts” and for “misleading” and “dividing” people by playing communal politics. Sonia said her party was committed to improving the condition of the people and developing the country.
She spoke a few hours after defence minister George Fernandes accused her party of launching a “motivated and sustained” campaign over the Central Vigilance Commission report on arms purchases during the Kargil war. Sonia hit out at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government for its “unprecedented” denial of vital documents relating to the purchases to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
She accused the Centre of taking bribes in purchasing coffins for soldiers killed in the Kargil conflict. “What expectation can one have from such a government which does not show respect to the nation’s martyrs'” she asked.
The Congress chief asked the people to take a pledge to oust the BJP-led government which she alleged had “failed on all fronts”.
Senior party leaders, including Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and her ministerial colleagues as well as Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, Arjun Singh, R.K. Dhawan and party general secretary Anil Shastri, were present during the rally.
In a veiled reference to the alleged dropping of conspiracy charges against Advani and several others in the Babri Masjid demolition case, Sonia slammed the Centre for “forcing” the CBI to drop the charges to “save” its ministers. “What justice can one expect from such a government,” she asked.
Sonia said there were many political parties and organisations today which did not show people the right direction and instead, misled youngsters.
Referring to the recent toppling of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh, Sonia accused the Centre of dislodging a democratically-elected government in the Northeast and called it part of a conspiracy to fulfil its “selfish political ends”.
She alleged that similar attempts were being made in other Northeast states.
The Congress chief prefaced her criticism by saying she did not want to discuss the current political situation at such a solemn occasion. She said she had been compelled to talk politics as the BJP was vitiating the atmosphere all over India.