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Cong chief draws crowd Sonia speaks of influx

- UPA chairperson satisfied with performance

Jowai (West Jaintia Hills), Feb. 19: AICC president Sonia Gandhi today scored where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had failed on Friday.

The Congress president touched on at least two tricky issues — illegal immigration and illegal mining. And the aam aadmi appeared more than eager to see her as the crowd at Kiang Nangbah College ground here was much bigger than what was witnessed at the Prime Minister’s campaign at Polo ground in Shillong.

Dressed in the attire of the local Pnar people, the UPA chairperson told the gathering about the “deep and personal significance” Meghalaya held for her. “It fills me with special joy to be back among you today. Meghalaya has always held a deep and personal significance for me,” she said in her opening remarks from a prepared speech.

“Meghalaya has grown far more rapidly than most other states in the country. Friends, I can say with some measure of satisfaction that under the current government, Meghalaya has witnessed a very productive and peaceful period in the history of the state,” she said.

The above lines were indicative that Sonia was pleased with chief minister Mukul M. Sangma, with whom she was seen busy conversing prior to her speech.

“Since we are in government, both the Congress led-UPA and our government in Meghalaya have worked diligently and in earnest to provide solid foundations of administration on which the people can build their lives,” she said.

Although Sonia touched upon two tricky issues afflicting the state, she did not elaborate. “We are aware that much still needs to be done and many issues such as those related to immigration (need to be tackled). We are at present engaging with the Bangladesh government to stem illegal immigration. I am hopeful that we will reach a solution to the satisfaction of all sides,” she said.

As she was speaking from the lap of a coal-rich region, she said, “I am aware that illegal mining is a threat to the state’s environment. We have taken some measures and shall continue in our effort.”

Telling the gathering that much work has been initiated, she said, “We do not intend to rest on our laurels. Having been in power has not rendered us complacent. We are always mindful of and sensitive to the expectations and aspirations of the people. Much work has been initiated. We cannot slow down.

“But for us to continue succeeding, for us to continue this work, we must have the cooperation and partnership of the people we seek to serve. We come to you to renew our mandate and to seek your support,” she added.

“The upcoming elections are of great significance. They provide us with an opportunity to come to you, the people, so that you may judge the success we have had in helping realise your expectations,” she said, appealing for votes.

Sonia, who campaigned at Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills, after leaving Jowai, said the people here have “always reposed their trust in us and we have and will not ever breach that trust.”

“It is a sacred bond that we have never taken for granted. That is why I am here to ask you to give us the opportunity to continue in our efforts to give voice to your aspirations and dreams,” Sonia said while appealing to the voters to give her party another term in office.

“I ask you, the people of this beautiful state, to give expression once again to that sacred trust that you have reposed in us in the past. I ask you to cast your vote in support of Congress party, for the wellbeing of the people of Meghalaya.”

As Sonia was speaking, hundreds in the crowd started flocking to the other side of the venue.

Reason: the chopper that had brought Sonia Gandhi to them. Soon after Sonia concluded her speech, Shillong Lok Sabha MP Vincent H. Pala, who was chairing the meet, had to appeal to the people to resume their seats.