The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia blasts BJP on terror

Hadad (Banaskantha), Dec. 3: Sonia Gandhi today launched a blistering attack on the BJP for spreading hatred and fear and trying to divert attention from problems affecting the people of Gujarat.

But in her 13-minute speech, the Congress president did not once name caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi, who has repeatedly ridiculed her as “Italy ki beti” in public meetings.

Kicking off the Congress’ election campaign from this tribal-dominated belt in north Gujarat, about 20 km from Ambaji, after offering prayers at the temple, Sonia said the BJP was raising issues not relevant to the state.

In an obvious reference to Modi, who has also been attacking “Mian Musharraf”, Sonia said “some people and organisers are raising the issue of terrorism and Pakistan’’ just to cover up the lack of development in Gujarat.

“This issue of terrorism and Pakistan is a national problem that can be tackled by the Centre. The Congress has extended its support to the government in Parliament on this issue. Nobody has stopped the Union government from curbing this problem of terrorism,” she said.

Obviously referring to the chief minister’s controversial Gaurav Yatra, Sonia said: “Hate, destruction and backwardness is not the gaurav (pride) of Gujarat. The kind of disgusting language the BJP leaders speak does not make one feel proud.”

At the well-attended rally, Sonia struck a chord with the tribals despite the language barrier. She spoke about water, electricity and drought, blaming the four-and-a-half-year rule of the BJP for derailing the state’s economic progress.

“You have faced the consequences of the BJP’s misrule. The BJP promised a regime free from fear, hunger and corruption, but that is precisely what you have got. So December 12 is your chance to throw the BJP out of power,” she said.

The large number of people who turned up for Sonia’s first election meeting here indicates that her stock is rising among tribals, who account for 15 per cent of the state’s population and 26 of the 182 MLAs. In the dissolved House, the Congress had 18 tribal MLAs.

Sixty-year-old Pithabaru has never heard of Sonia. For him, she is Indira Gandhi. But it does not really matter. People here have made up their minds to vote for the Congress. They remember that power supply was regular when the party ruled Gujarat and there was relief work every time there was a drought.

But this time, despite repeated requests, the state government has not started any relief work though the area is reeling under severe drought for the third consecutive year.

Since the BJP has done little to put things right, no party leader is addressing these problems. People are, as a result, turning to the Congress in the hope that change of guard in Gandhinagar will reduce their woes.

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