The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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War of words: George targets ‘that woman’

Bhopal/Indore, Sept. 29: Sonia Gandhi and George Fernandes today traded barbs long distance, with the Congress chief accusing the NDA of “playing havoc with national security” and the defence minister challenging her to prove the coffin scam or face legal action for “sedition”.

Sonia spouted fire while addressing women at an empowerment convention in Indore, urging them to throw out the “corrupt and communal” government. Fernandes hit back at the Samata Party’s state convention in Bhopal.

“If that woman does not keep her mouth shut, there will be legal action against her and it will not be confined to defamation but sedition also,” Fernandes said. Asked when he would sue her, he shot back: “I am not going to wait till eternity.”

An angry Congress challenged Fernandes to “address a press conference in Delhi”. “He must face the press and defend himself on such issues as Tehelka (defence scam). We know it is more difficult to do so than speak in Parliament or address press conferences outside Delhi,” chief spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy said in Delhi.

Fernandes also accused Sonia of lowering the morale of the army, saying “the decision to import caskets was taken by army officials and the irresponsible charges have lowered their morale”. Fernandes said he had given Sonia 24 hours to prove the Kargil coffin charges but over 24 days had passed without any response.

Addressing an impressive gathering, Sonia said the worst crimes against women were being perpetuated during the NDA regime. Referring to the Godhra riots and the Best Bakery massacre, she said: “They were a blot on civil society. The Supreme Court’s observations have vindicated our stand.”

Fernandes accused Sonia of “playing politics” with national security. He alleged she did not know the difference between a coffin and a casket and was merely reading out prepared speeches.

Sonia said communal riots were women’s worst enemy as they stood to lose husbands, brothers and children as well as their honour. She said if women climbed to the helm of affairs in society, there would be “mamta (affection), karuna (compassion) and samvedna (sensitivity)”.

The Congress chief appeared to be in reformist mode, asking women to strive for a better society. She said women tended to be women’s biggest enemies. “There have been instances of dowry deaths, violence and domestic violence where women inflicted injustice on their gender. The old mindset must change,” she said.

Sonia drew huge applause as the speakers dubbed her “Durga” and Indira Gandhi. The crowd went into raptures each time she was described as the future Prime Minister. Sonia herself cheered loudly as the women began to dance to “Hum honge kaamyab ek din”.

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