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Worried Congress warns Delhi unit against ‘complacency’ ahead of polls

Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 19, 2013
First Published: 00:19 IST(19/11/2013) | Last Updated: 00:22 IST(19/11/2013)

Low turn-out at Rahul Gandhi’s rally at Dakshinpuri in south Delhi — a Congress stronghold — on Sunday has left the party’s central leadership upset and worried.

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With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi set to address two rallies in east and west Delhi respectively in the next few days, sources said the party leadership has told Delhi leaders to ensure that Dakshinpuri episode is not repeated.

Sources said the central leadership has also told the state leaders to look into reasons why the crowd was thin and warned them against “complacency”. Sonia is scheduled to address a gathering in Shastri Park on November 24 while Singh was supposed to go to Sikh and Punjabi-dominated Tilak Nagar in west Delhi on November 27.

Sources said the party leadership has also assigned urban development minister Arvinder Singh, whose constituency is just next to the ground where Sonia will address the crowd, the responsibility to ensure maximum participation.

A small crowd had gathered at the DDA ground in Dakshinpuri near Ambedkar Nagar in south Delhi on Sunday to listen to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. While people started gathering at the ground from 10am, Gandhi reached the venue a little after 1 pm and spoke just for a few minutes.

With no arrangement for water at the ground, the crowd started to leave even before Rahul rose to speak, forcing chief minister Sheila Dikshit to request people to stay back and listen to him. A section within the Congress has disapproved of Dikshit’s call to people, maintaining that she could have engaged the gathering on her own.

While Congress leaders remained unavailable to comment on Monday, party general secretary in-charge of Delhi Shakeel Ahmad tweeted that the media was being unfair to his party. “Showing 500 seats which were empty but didn’t show 20,000+ which were occupied,” he tweeted.

The chief minister, however, blamed “strict security set up” and police’s refusal to allow people to carry water. “They may have been thirsty and a little anguished,” Dikshit told PTI. The chief minister also said that people had to wait for long, which could have been one of the reasons for leaving the venue before Rahul started speaking.

She, however, claimed that it was a “good rally” and that Rahul delivered an “impressive speech”.

(with PTI inputs)

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