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Bofors: Sonia leads family fightback

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has broke her enduring silence on the BJP?s raking up of the Bofors controversy ?deliberately? for the last 18 years.
PTI | By HT Correspondent & Agencies, Raipur
UPDATED ON APR 12, 2004 12:42 PM IST

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday broke her enduring silence on the BJP’s raking up of the Bofors controversy “deliberately” for the last 18 years.

At a massive rally in the Chattisgarh capital, Sonia said: “This bogey of Bofors has been raised for the last 18 years … it was thrust on my husband and now on me very conveniently. Only God knows if one day my great grandchildren will also be pulled into this.”

She was reacting to the fresh allegations levelled by the BJP over her involvement in the payoffs scam. Sonia had a whirlwind campaign schedule for the day in Chhattisgarh, which goes to polls on April 20.

She said the BJP was bringing up the issue to “cover up for the Vajpayee government’s inability to solve problems facing the country, mainly unemployment and poverty. “So what else do they have to do? Attack the Nehru-Gandhi family and me in particular. Let them go ahead….”

Sonia trashed the “so-called feel good” claiming farmers were committing suicide and the ordinary citizen is grappling with a steep increase in prices. “The NDA government claims everything is fine when prices are rising steeply and farmers are committing suicide. They should remember that they cannot misguide the people for long,” she said at a rally at Lalbagh Maidan in Jagdalpur, headquarters of the Naxalite-dominated Bastar division.

Accusing the Vajpayee government of spending crores of rupees from the exchequer for publicity of its “false achievements”, she said “this same money could have been used for development”. “In the past five years the Centre has not formulated any policy for the welfare of tribals”, but has sold off several profitable PSUs which were providing jobs to millions.

She appealed to the voters of Bastar, a tribal reserved seat, to support her party in the struggle for the uplift of tribals and vote Congress candidate Mahendra Karma.

She reminded the largely tribal audience of their association with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was a “mother figure” to them. Her son Rahul Gandhi continued the counter-attack against the BJP in Amethi on much the same lines. “After realising that the feel good factor did not cut much ice with the people, the BJP is trying to grab power by diverting their attention through the twin modes of Bofors and the foreign origin issue,” Rahul said. But the “BJP would not succeed in its attempt as it stands exposed before the people”.

He said though his father’s name has been dragged into the Bofors case for the last 17 years, his innocence was ultimately upheld by the court. “The decision of the High Court to clear my father’s name did not go down well with the BJP. My family is committed to serving the country. Let the BJP say anything. We are not worried.”

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