The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia confident after Srinagar ‘good show’

New Delhi, Sept. 20: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today picked up from where she had left off yesterday, accusing the Vajpayee government at the Centre of all-round failure in Kashmir.

“We gave them complete and unconditional support, but they failed miserably,” Sonia told a private TV channel.

Yesterday, the Congress chief had kicked up a row by describing chief minister Farooq Abdullah as “aiyash (dilettante)”. However, Congress sources tried to underplay the incident, saying Sonia had meant that Abdullah was flamboyant.

The Congress chief is far more confident than she was before her Srinagar rally. The crowd may not have been big in Srinagar but Sonia, happy at the response she received, termed it a “good show”.

On the way back yesterday, the Congress leader had told close associates that all parties had erred in neglecting the Valley. “Unless we reach out to them, how do we expect them to change,” Sonia wondered aloud. She said the body language of Kashmiri people indicated that they were willing to join the national mainstream.

At another level, Sonia drew satisfaction that she was able to address a public meeting at a place where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani could not. Her campaign managers plan to hardsell her Kashmir visit to drive home the point that when it comes to “national interest” Sonia is ahead of Vajpayee and Advani.

Congress sources said they were hopeful that Sonia’s Kashmir visit would go a long way in blunting the controversy over her foreign origin. “The masses are not keen to know who was born where. They are more keen to see their leaders put a healing touch, take up development and restore harmony in society,” a Congress Working Committee member said.

Congress members were also elated that the party chief did not mince words while clubbing the RSS’ trifurcation plans with Jinnah’s mindset.

“She has exposed the BJP. Let the people of India know what the RSS is up to,” said a senior party leader.

The BJP has reacted sharply to Sonia’s statements. BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi posed six questions to Sonia:

nIs the Congress restless to capture power to carry forward the agenda of terrorism caused by its misdeeds'

nDoes the Congress want to capture power to perpetrate the policies of the Nehru family, which were responsible for about 54 per cent portion of Kashmir being ceded away from India'

nBy capturing power, does the Congress want to fulfil the incomplete agenda of throwing the remaining 46 per cent'

nIs the Congress worried about free and fair polls, as it has exposed the party’s decades-old electoral bungling'

nDoes the Congress want to invite terrorists, covertly accepting their anti-national demands by agreeing to unconditional talks'

nHow long will the Congress continue to make efforts to fulfil its political designs on the basis of its illusionary mentality'

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