The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia poll guns blaze in desert

Sagwara (Dungarpur), May 13: Sonia Gandhi followed Rajasthan BJP chief Vasundhara Raje to this tribal region today to kick off the Congress campaign for the Assembly polls.

Badly mauled by the BJP in the recent Assembly bypoll to Sagwara (Scheduled Tribe) constituency, the Congress chief today blasted the Centre and the Sangh seeking to shore up support in a traditional party stronghold.

At the rally in this small town in Dungarpur district, 150 km from Udaipur and near Gujarat, Sonia dubbed the BJP and the Centre “slave to the various organisations” of the Sangh.

She accused the Centre of providing inadequate assistance to the drought-hit, Congress-ruled state. If her speech was any indication, the Congress’ poll plank in the state would be the BJP-led Centre’s performance and the Sangh’s communal agenda.

Sonia said the “anti-people” Atal Bihari Vajpayee government followed “anti-poor policies” and had a “confused” foreign policy to boot. “The BJP-led Central government has neither an economic policy nor a clear foreign policy,” she said. “Prices are rising and unemployment increasing by leaps and bounds, leaving the youth with a dark future.”

The utter confusion in the foreign policy was evident from the constantly changing statements of the Centre, she said.

The BJP and its Sangh allies, Sonia said, were thriving on divisive policies and distortions in history. “They are not only spreading hatred among the communities and spoiling social harmony, but (also) distorting history as also religion.”

The rally attracted around 20,000, mainly tribals, who were herded in buses, trucks and jeeps in this tribal region of southern Rajasthan called Wagar, comprising Dungarpur and Banswara districts.

The Congress had suffered a jolt in the Sagwara bypoll as the districts, comprising nine Assembly constituencies, were a traditional party stronghold.

In the last Assembly polls, the Congress had won six constituencies.

Raje had covered the region in the recently concluded first phase of her “Parivartan Yatra” and drawn good response at public meetings.

Expressing satisfaction with the Ashok Gehlot government for its management of the drought, Sonia accused the Centre of ignoring her request to provide the state with adequate assistance.

Gehlot spoke at the rally though AICC general secretaries Ambika Soni and Nawal Kishore Sharma did not.

Sonia flew from here to address another rally at Bhilwara which, too, is situated in the Mewar (Udaipur) region.

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