Big B's wishes touch Assam's heart

Updated on Mar 31, 2006 04:17 AM IST

While Sonia wooed voters through several rallies, the superstar's one message had people pining for more.

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None | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Tinsukia (assam)

Campaigning by the ruling Congress in Assam and the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) for next week's assembly elections reached a crescendo on Thursday with both engaged in a bitter war of words.

While Congress President Sonia Gandhi hopped from one rally to the other addressing four election meetings from the south to the east of Assam, a bevy of leaders from former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to Jaya Prada and Jaya Bachchan campaigned aggressively for the AGP.

This commercially busy town of Tinsukia in eastern Assam on Thursday was chock-a-block with people as both the AGP and Congress held election meetings.

First it was the AGP who virtually stormed into the Congress heartland holding a massive rally in the morning.

A message from Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan read out in Bengali by his wife Jaya received a roaring applause.

"Amitabhji was unable to be here amidst you all. But he has sent his best wishes to the people of Assam," she told the rally.

Then it was the turn of another actor Jaya Prada who took the stage.

"The Congress is a party of betrayers," Jaya Prada thundered and the crowd broke into raptures. Some more fiery speeches followed.

"It is a shame that the Congress party is describing their president Sonia Gandhi resigning from parliament as a sacrifice. She wanted to defame us and instead stumbled and fell in the grave dug by them," Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh said.

"The Congress did nothing for the country and the people of Assam and today we appeal to you all to vote for the AGP and throw out the ruling party from power".

Then it was the turn of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telegu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu to target the Congress.

"The Congress government is interested only in encouraging Bangladeshi infiltration to strengthen their support base. Very soon the indigenous Assamese people are going to be reduced to a minority," Naidu said.

A couple of hours later, the Congress president was here and she made an impassioned plea asking the people of Assam to re-elect the ruling party.

Assam goes to the polls to elect a 126-member legislature on April 3 and 10.

"My request to the people of Assam is to vote the Congress party to power once again so that we can make the state economically strong and solve the insurgency problem permanently," said Gandhi, who was on a daylong visit to Assam to bolster the party's election prospects.

Hitting back at the opposition that had termed the Congress as a party supporting illegal Bangladeshi infiltration, Gandhi charged the opponents of spreading misinformation.

"Our party and our government do not support any illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and are committed to protecting our national interests," she said.

"We have pledged not to allow any genuine Indians to be harassed in the name of hounding infiltrators. Genuine Indians would be safe under our rule".

All her rallies were attended by huge enthusiastic crowds.

"You must all pledge to come out in large numbers on the polling day and vote for the Congress party. Your votes are crucial for Assam's destiny," Gandhi said.

She accused the opposition parties in Assam of trying to vitiate the atmosphere for peace. "At a time when we are sincerely working towards solving insurgency, some people were trying to disturb the process," she said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also be in the state for two days from Saturday. He will address at least four meetings, including one at Tezpur in northern Assam, the opposition Asom Gana Parishad-dominated area from where its president Brindaban Goswami is contesting.

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