Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Meira Kumar wave to supporters at the Railway Maidan in Sasaram, which goes to the polls on April 10, on Thursday. Picture by Sanjay Choudhary
Sasaram, April 3: Sonia Gandhi unleashed a scathing attack on Nitish Kumar for “changing face time to time” in her maiden election rally in the state today.
“Beware of people who change their face from time to time. Till yesterday, they were with the BJP and now using a mask they claim themselves as messiah of secularism. They attack us and make baseless allegation to hide their own failures,” she said.
“These people who are selling you dreams are not your friends. Ye apke saathi nahi hai, ye desh ke saathi nahi hai, ye kursi aur satta ke saathi hai (They are not your friends, they are not the friends of our nation, they just want chair and power),” the Congress president said during her 20-minute speech at Railway Maidan here this afternoon.
It was not known whether she had sent a missive to the Congress MLAs in June last year to save the Nitish government with crucial support as “friends”. The government faced a vote of confidence after ending the 17-year alliance with the BJP on the ground of projection of a “communal person as prime ministerial candidate”.
Even though Sonia did not mention Nitish’s name, the message was more than clear for politically conscious voters in the constituency of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
“What madam is saying is absolutely correct. Those who were in tow with the BJP for the sake of power for so many years cannot claim the allegiance of minorities,” said Mohammed Zamal Khan of Dharmshala locality who was listening to Sonia’s speech with rapt attention braving the April sun.
Zamal was part of the 25,000 and odd people who had turned up to listen to the Congress president who took the stage around 1pm after coming from Varanasi on a helicopter. As the ground is in a residential area, many were seen on roofs to keep a close watch on the rally.
In Sasaram, which goes to poll on April 10, Meira is locked in a triangular contest with the BJP’s Chhedi Paswan and K.P. Ramaiah of the JD(U).
Sonia’s attack on Nitish’s secular credentials came just two days after her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi too criticised the chief minister on the same issue. Rahul, while addressing an election rally in Aurangabad on April 1, had taken a leaf from the past and had raked up the issue referring to the 2002 Gujarat riots after which Nitish had continued to be the railway minister in the then NDA government.
The effort to woo the minority voters is understandable in a state like Bihar where Muslims constitute about 18 per cent of 6 crore and odd voters. A decisive support of Muslims would be vital for the UPA as well as the JD(U) given the fact that the contest for most of the seats are set to be triangular with the NDA leaving nothing to chance as far as garnering people’s support is concerned.
However, unlike Rahul, Sonia chose to take care of the ally’s (RJD) interest in the rally. While no known face of the RJD was seen sharing stage with Rahul, Sonia had the RJD’s Kanti Singh in tow on the dais. Kanti is the UPA candidate from neighbouring Karakat. “Our opponents are trying to create confusion that there is some rift between the Congress and the RJD. Madam’s move to have the RJD candidate with her on the dais would silence all,” a senior Congress leader said.
It was not that Sonia kept her attack confined to the JD(U) only. She also tore into the BJP claiming that it was trying to deceive people and the Congress would go all out to safeguard social harmony in the country at any cost. Having spitted venom against her political opponents, the Congress president did not forget to mention the achievements of the UPA government. “The UPA government implemented the Right to Information to fight corruption, gave guarantee for job and education. We have also decided to give free medical check-up and medicine to the people of this country as mentioned in our manifesto,” she said.
About the local issues, Sonia announced that the Durgawati project for improved irrigation facilities would soon start functioning.