In her first joint appearance with Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi highlighted the government's commitment to minorities before the people of lock city Aligarh.
Sunday's rally was part of a show of strength by the RLD and alliance partner Congress. In 2007, though Aligarh city had gone to the Samajwadi Party, the RLD had won two seats in the area — Iglas and Khair. The BSP had won Barauli and the BJP, Atrauli and Koil.
Addressing a crowd of about 10,000 in the heart of the city, the Congress chief made an effort to reach out to the locals.
The Congress, Gandhi said, was the first to take up the interests of the minorities. "We appointed the Sachar committee and began implementing its recommendations. We created a separate ministry for minorities with a budget of Rs 5 crore."
Schools were opened for minorities and the budget of Maulana Azad Foundation was raised, she said. "We extended financial help to madarsas."
Pointing out, however, that Aligarh is a city of "composite culture", she said it was time people opened the doors to development and progress. The city's lock industry was facing a downfall, she said and promised measures to improve the situation.
Lashing out at the Mayawati regime for corruption and lack of development, RLD chief and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh asked if dismissing 25 ministers on election eve had cleaned up the government.