The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Meet Sonia, the NDA stalwart

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 27: You just can’t fight a party that is an ally in Delhi but a bitter enemy in your own state. So, months before the Assembly polls, the Congress in Kerala has done the obvious thing to sort out its tangled relation with the CPM.

It has joined the National Democratic Alliance.

And a grateful Atal Bihari Vajpayee has immediately given up his post of coalition head to Sonia Gandhi.

That is, if you go by the full-page advertisement taken out by the Thiruvananthapuram district Congress committee in some newspapers.

“Such a rare gift of leadership can only be claimed by the Congress. Her (Sonia’s) visit will not only enthuse Congressmen but all those who believe in democracy,” it goes. “Perhaps, as a person leading the NDA at the national level, even the Left can be proud of having a leader like her.”

Bungling by party bosses, or ignorance of copywriters' Whatever it is, the faux pas has ensured that there were many red faces in the Congress office today.

The district Congress committee president chose to remain silent, saying he hadn’t seen the advertisement ' he had been too busy with the party’s Chaithanya Yatra which has just ended.

Party media committee chairman M.M. Hassan, though, shrugged off the howler as “insignificant”.

It isn’t known if the Congress president shares this view, because nobody ' for obvious reasons ' has brought the full-page spread to her notice. Sonia is visiting the state but wouldn’t have had the time to read the papers. She was busy inaugurating the new party headquarters and meeting local coalition leaders.

The issue of her party’s ties with the Left dominated her speeches. She said that whatever the relationship is like in Delhi, the Congress will not go soft on the Left, “our opponents” in the state.

“We are working together at the Centre in our ideological struggle against communal forces. But here in Kerala I make it clear that the Left are our opponents. Our party has quite a separate agenda.”

She took a pot shot, saying the Congress ' whether in power or not ' does not place obstacles on the path of economic development. “We do not believe in obstructionism even when we are in the Opposition,” she said.

As in Delhi, the Left has been resisting the Congress-led state government’s economic policies.

Had Sonia read her party’s advertisement, she might have said, “We are like a cow to the Left at the Centre but a bull in Kerala.”

The ad, paying a tribute to Vayalar Ravi, MP, says: “He initially appears to charge at you like a bull; but later mellows down like a cow.”

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