The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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What wave, asks triumphant Sonia

New Delhi, March 1: Pepped up by the convincing victory in Himachal Pradesh, Sonia Gandhi today rubbished the BJP’s post-Gujarat claims of a “Hindutva wave” across the country and asserted that her party will remain committed to secularism and development.

“The Himachal results have proved that the so-called Hindutva wave was not working as they (BJP leaders) had said and hoped. This is a matter of great satisfaction for us and everyone,” the Congress chief told reporters at her 10, Janpath residence this evening.

Responding to queries, Sonia dismissed suggestions that the Congress had adopted a “soft Hindutva” stand during the Gujarat elections. “This is an accusation thrown at us by the BJP. It is not true,” she said.

“We will remain firm on our basic commitment to secularism and development”, which will be the Congress planks for the next round of Assembly elections later this year in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh, she added. As for Himachal, the Congress chief said her party would work to fulfil its election promises of bringing development.

Sonia refused to be drawn in when queried about deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s proposal to bring forward legislations to ban cow slaughter and a uniform civil code if her party were to extend support. “I don’t want to enter into a discussion on it,” she said.

The Congress president, who also expressed satisfaction over her party’s bypoll victories in Congress-ruled states, said the defeat in the Gauriganj byelection in her Amethi parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh did not come as a surprise. The party had won the seat narrowly the last time, she pointed out.

In any case, Sonia said the Congress should have no illusions about its standing in the state. “We have difficulties in UP. Let there be no pretensions about that,” she said. Sonia emphasised the need for all secular parties to work together in the state.

Asked whether her party would open talks with the Nationalist Congress Party to form a new government in Meghalaya, where it emerged the single largest party in the Assembly elections, Sonia said: “We are discussing within the party. Central observers have been sent there. But we are already in alliance with the NCP in Maharashtra.” The hint was the Congress would make all efforts to form the next government in the northeastern state.

The party’s impressive performance in the just-concluded Assembly polls and bypolls has also ended talks of massive changes in the AICC set-up. “I am looking at the possibility of re-arranging the AICC set-up. (But) I am not contemplating in terms of appointing a working president,” Sonia said.

There have been talks in AICC circles that she might go in for someone like Arjun Singh as working president or vice-president.

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