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Sonia barb at bribe ‘record’

Pali (Rajasthan), Nov. 24: If Sonia Gandhi’s two rounds of election rallies in Rajasthan are any indication, the Congress has decided to make the BJP’s corruption its main plank during the Assembly elections.

The party recently alleged that six Central ministers had “milked” public sector units. But even though central vigilance commissioner P. Shanker has denied the allegations against the ministers, the Congress chief reiterated the sleaze allegations today.

With Shanker denying having pointed fingers at the ministers during his October 16 meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister slammed the Congress and called for an apology. But Sonia responded by demanding a parliamentary probe into the matter.

The Congress chief addressed a 10,000-strong crowd at an election rally in the headquarters of the desert district of Pali in western Rajasthan today.

Ridiculing the BJP’s claims that it was a party with a difference, Sonia sarcastically said: “Yes, this is a party with a difference.” Saying that corruption has reached new levels under the BJP, the Congress chief added: “Rishvat ki aisi misal kabhi samne nahin hogi. Unhone rishvat ka record kayam kar diya (hai) jo bhavishya me kabhi nahi hoga” (They have scaled such heights in bribery and corruption that will never be surpassed),” she alleged. The BJP has flouted all norms of governance, the Congress chief added.

Clearly referring to Vajpayee, Sonia said the people of Rajasthan should ask a senior BJP leader why he could not visit the state when it reeled under yet another drought. She answered that the leader could not spare time because he was preoccupied with the “jod-tod (machinations)” at the Centre.

During the last Assembly elections, marked by a Congress wave, Pali was the only district where the party did not do that well — it won only three out of eight seats.

Ashok Gehlot, who also addressed the rally, said certain mistakes — intra-party squabbles and denying tickets to genuine party workers — had marked the 1998 elections. But these had been eliminated this time, the chief minister said.

During the last elections, Bhim Raj Bhati was denied a Congress ticket and went on to win as an Independent. He has been fielded as a party candidate from Pali this time.

Continuing her tirade against the BJP, Sonia said the Vajpayee government was to blame for unemployment, rising prices, industrial recession, peasants’ hardships and other problems.

The Congress chief praised Gehlot for his drought relief management and spelt out his government’s achievements in women empowerment, giving strength to rural democracy through the Panchayat Raj, improving educational environment in rural areas and providing a clean administration.

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