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'Divisive politics a major challenge'

india Updated: Nov 24, 2008 01:34 IST
Anuradha Mukherjee

With just a week left for the Delhi polls, electioneering hit fever pitch on Sunday. The ruling Congress unleashed its star campaigner Sonia Gandhi at a massive rally in Delhi in an effort to win the assembly elections here for a record third time.

“Terrorists are terrorists,” said Sonia, addressing a rally in Mongolpuri, northwest Delhi. “They have only one religion — to spread terror in the society… (we must not) associate terrorism with a community or religion.”

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling Congress’s chief rival in Delhi, she asked voters to chose between Congress, which takes along people from all religions, and those who do “divisive politics”.

The BJP will get a chance to answer her charges when its top leaders — L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi — hit the campaign trail here later in the week, addressing rallies and public meetings. Delhi is crucial for both, as it has been historically for anyone who ruled India.

The Congress had 47 MLAs in the last Delhi assembly, and the BJP 20. While there are no opinion polls saying it yet, the word on the street is that the Congress is in trouble. Many in the party privately admit winning Delhi this time looks difficult.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, which had no MLAs in the last House but has 17 councillors in the municipal corporation, also stepped up its campaign on Sunday with a massive rally by its leader Mayawati.

She promised reservation for the economically weaker sections among the upper caste. Her prime ministerial ambitions were also on display. “For 60 years, the country has seen either the Congress or BJP in power at the Centre. Now our time has come,” she said.

While it may win a few seats, the BSP is going to play the role of a spoiler largely. The Battle for Delhi is actually between the Congress and the BJP. That’s why Sonia targeted only the BJP at her rally, and no other party.