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Tug at Gujarat’s other Gandhi link
- Congress chief mentions Indira and Rajiv, not Modi and riots

Ghodsamba (South Gujarat), Dec. 7: Sonia Gandhi today invoked her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi’s and husband Rajiv Gandhi’s links with the tribals of south Gujarat to reinforce the Congress’s strength in its traditional bastion, the only territory it has managed to save against the BJP’s onslaughts.

Sonia underlined the historical connect: “South Gujarat and the Congress have a special relationship. I will never forget the love you showered on Indiraji when she was briefly out of power. There are attempts to sunder this relationship. I must clearly state that our party is committed to preserving this invaluable relationship,” she said to loud applause.

The Congress president also took the names of Gujarat’s first, and only, tribal chief minister, Amarsinh Chaudhry to make her central point that her party alone had the interests of the Adivasis at heart.

She underscored a perception among some Gujaratis, obtaining from a political divide that identifies the BJP as a party pandering to the entrenched and the emerging rich, and the Congress as one with a more egalitarian and eclectic social vision. “The government here has no place, no feelings for the poor. It is interested in a chosen few. That is why I understand how depressed you feel,” she said.

In this picturesque village, 60km west of Surat, Sonia drew tribals and Muslims from seven rural Assembly seats.

“The people of this region are hardworking and humble. Yet, why is there so much poverty? The BJP government announced a Rs 1,500-crore package for Adivasis. Where has the money vanished because there is no improvement in people’s lives? The UPA government legislated the right of land ownership to tribals. Why has the government here not implemented the law?”

She soon answered her questions. “The hype and hoopla over development is a show. The promises are hollow and false. It is the Congress’s hand of help that is extended each time Gujarat faces a drought or an earthquake.”

Not once in her half-hour address did Sonia name Modi or allude to the riots of 2002. If Modi made development his theme and packaged it in a “Centre-versus-state conflict”, Sonia reminded her audience that the Congress had laid the foundations for the progress.

She said the Centre had hugely hiked the minimum procurement price of cotton, Gujarat’s biggest cash crop. “If farmers are in debt in spite of the UPA’s loan waiver, it is because the government here has not implemented the scheme…. Like other states, Gujarat gets a Rs 1,000-crore package. How much of it is spent, I do not know,” Sonia said.