Ramgarh, April 4: Wearing her trademark handloom sari with pallu over her head, Congress president Sonia Gandhi went on the offensive in Ramgarh, her first Lok Sabha 2014 rally in Jharkhand, by calling BJP prime ministerial hopeful a “big liar” without naming him.
Sonia rubbished NaMo for selling a false dream in her 12-minute speech to an audience of over 5,000 at the compact and heavily barricaded Sidho-Kanhu grounds in Ramgarh, a part of Hazaribagh parliamentary seat where the Congress has fielded the 39-year-old Saurabh Narayan Singh.
“Main aapse poochna chahti hoon ki kya ab aisa waqt aa gaya hai jab Bharat jaise mahan desh ka pradhan mantri banna is baat se tay hoga ki kaun kitni badi badi baatain kar sakta hai, kaun kitna bada jhooth bol sakta hai (Are times so bad that a great country like India will choose its Prime Minister based on tall claims and big lies?),” Sonia thundered.
The crowd, appreciating the innuendo, clapped. “Yeh ek dam sahi baat bol rahi hain. Dekhiye dekhiye bina Modi ka naam liye sab baat bol di (She’s spot on. Without naming Modi, she’s said everything),” a man from the crowd shouted.
Listing what the UPA I and II regimes did, including MGNREGS, acts on right to information, food security and minor forest produce, among others, Sonia said: “Our opponents are blind. They don’t want to see the good work done under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Nowhere in the world is there a Food Security Act. Implementing them wasn’t easy as the Opposition created hurdles. If the UPA returns to power we will bring similar laws to ensure right to health, homes, pension and others.”
She took Modi’s biggest charge against the UPA — corruption — head-on. “Corruption is a serious disease of the country and our government made serious attempts to weed it out with Right to Information Act,” she said.
Modi, in his recent Gumla rally, accused the Congress of cheating people with false promises. Countering it, Sonia said: “What we promised in our manifesto we did. They (Opposition) are telling you stories. They are trying to show as if nothing good happened during the UPA regime and as if overnight they will change everything.”
Reminding Ramgarh that her mother-in-law and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalised coal mines to improve the lot of colliery workers, she said the UPA would do a lot more if returned to power.
No one would have told her that this was the place barely few kilometres from Ramgarh Cantonment area where the Sikh Regiment had risen in revolt over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Connecting herself with the minority, women and the downtrodden, Sonia claimed the UPA started implementation of Sachar Committee report recommendations and made strong laws to curb violence against women.
In one point, however, both Sonia and Modi seemed to have mirroring views. “Violence stops the country’s development. Shun violence and join mainstream,” Sonia referred to Maoists but did not, again, name anyone.
If Sonia proved to be more smiles than words, Congressmen on the dais — All India Congress Committee general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, state unit chief Sukhdeo Bhagat, state finance minister and Intuc leader Rajendra Prasad Singh and nominee Saurabh Narayan Singh — spoke less or simply waved.
Bhagat, in his three-minute address, termed the Lok Sabha poll as a fight of ideology. “On one side is the UPA that worships Mahatma Gandhi and fights for national integration, whereas on the other side, communal forces are dividing the nation.”
Rajendra Prasad Singh, whom Sonia mistakenly referred to as “Pratap”, said only Congress took steps to improve lives of colliery workers.
Both referred to Sonia as “tyag ki pratimurti” who shunned Prime Minister post, in a pointed dig at Modi who “sidelined his own party seniors to grab the top post”.
Insiders said the low turnout had more to do with high noon, Jumma prayers and small grounds with heavy security bandobast, including over 200 policemen, barricades and four metal-detector doorframes acting as entry gates.
Sonia, who reached Ranchi this morning from Delhi by a special flight and then reached Ramgarh by chopper, was 40 minutes late. She arrived at 12.32pm and started her speech at 12.44pm. The entire programme was less than 45 minutes long.
But just before her departure, came the Sonia moment. Pushing aside security cover, a smiling Sonia rewarded the crowd with flashes of the original Mrs G magic. Hands outstretched, she shook hands with women and did namastes.