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Sonia hits poll trail in Delhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi juggled between attacking the BJP-NDA and hardselling the Congress’ achievements in her first election rally this poll season in Delhi on Wednesday. Saroj Nagi reports.

delhi Updated: Apr 30, 2009 01:55 IST
Saroj Nagi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi juggled between attacking the BJP-NDA and hardselling the Congress’ achievements in her first election rally this poll season in Delhi on Wednesday.

She expressed concern at the developments in the neighbouring country (but left it unsaid whether she was referring to Pakistan and/or Sri Lanka) and took a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“BJP leaders who talk about terrorism should introspect on what had happened when they were in power,” she said.

Gandhi’s 15-minute speech was notable for three things as she praised Manmohan Singh for steering the country through the problems left behind by the NDA.

One, as Delhi had voted positively on CM Sheila Dikshit’s performance, Sonia dwelt on the pro-poor and pro-people initiatives taken by the Manmohan Singh government.

“The Congress is the only party which seeks a mandate on the basis of its ideology, programmes and principles… It is not like other parties which seek support by using the venom of divisive agendas,’’ she said.

The second was her conversational and Q and A style of speech delivery. “Did any government bring NREGA? No. Did any other government waive off farm loans or increase procurement prices to the extent we did? Certainly not. Did any government open as many schools for higher education as we did? Definitely not,’’ she said.

She acknowledged that there were several challenges, including of terrorism, that can be met with unity.

The third was her combative approach when it came to the Opposition. As the party’s main rival in Delhi is the BJP, there was no reference to the Left. “Whenever the Congress took any pro-people measures, our opponents have opposed it. We weren’t bothered by it then and won’t be bothered by it now,’’ she said.

...Sheila Dikshit gets the thumbs up

The crowd was huge. The traffic in and around Ramlila Ground in Central Delhi came to a virtual standstill since afternoon. It was obvious Congress workers had left no stone unturned to make this campaign season’s maiden election rally of party president Sonia Gandhi, to garner support for the party’s seven Delhi candidates, a success.

But it was Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit—basking in the success of her party’s performance in last year’s assembly election—who was the star on Wednesday.

And it was none other than Sonia Gandhi herself who endorsed and gave a thumbs-up to Dikshit. Throughout her 15-minute speech, Gandhi showered praise on Dikshit and her leadership. “In the last few years under Sheila Dikshit’s leadership, the kind of work our government has done in Delhi is there for all to see. I can only say that the kind of development this city has seen has not been seen anywhere else,” said Gandhi.

A beaming Dikshit looked on. As Gandhi waxed eloquent about the UPA government’s achievements and how it was the Congress

government that implemented the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation, Dikshit got another pat on her back.

“In Delhi, Sheila Dikshit’s government has already introduced the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission,” said Gandhi.

Not long ago, Dikshit had faced stiff opposition from her own party workers and cabinet colleagues on her style of functioning.