The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia in school bag storm

Champaran (Raipur) Sept. 1: As chief minister Ajit Jogi continued to shower poll sops in Chhattisgarh, including free school bags carrying his mug shot, Sonia Gandhi cautioned the people against voting in the BJP claiming it would cause irreparable damage to the polity.

Addressing a public meeting at Champaran, 50 km from the state capital, Sonia said: “The NDA regime at the Centre is playing havoc with institutions and well-established practices. They can go to any extent to stay in power,” she said.

If the BJP replaces the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and wins power Mizoram, “there will be problems all around”, she added.

Sonia sought to showcase Congress rule in 14 states, challenging Atal Bihari Vajpayee to name one sector where his government had performed better than the Congress regimes.

With an eye on elections, Sonia distributed some free bags meant for 20 lakh school children across the state. Each bag costs about Rs 40. The Jogi regime justified the measure as part of its total literacy campaign.

But the BJP reacted angrily. Junior information and broadcasting minister Ramesh Bais, who hails from Chhattisgarh, said: “It is highly objectionable for Jogi and Sonia to draw political mileage. Why has Jogi’s picture figured on the school bag' Is he the modern day chacha Nehru'” he asked sarcastically.

Congress leaders dismissed the charge, saying there was no code of conduct in force. The idea was to attract children of tribals and weaker sections to join the literacy campaign, they added.

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