Wednesday, February 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

We’ll fulfil vows: Sonia
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Ms Sonia Gandhi with party officials
Ms Sonia Gandhi with party officials during the election rally in Balachaur on Tuesday.
— Reuters photo

Balachaur, February 5
“They must go. They cannot be trusted again. They have destroyed Punjab and cheated its people. Given a chance, they will cheat the people again.”

This is how the All-India Congress Committee chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, unleashed her “ruthless attack” on the SAD-BJP alliance as she gave a headstart to her party election’s campaign in Punjab by addressing large, impressive gatherings at Balachaur, Jalandhar and Abohar today.

Dressed in an olive green-cream colour salwar-kameez, Mrs Gandhi, not only spoke in chaste Hindi but also struck an emotional chord with the gatherings. She made a blistering attack on the government by accusing it of “taking the state backwards” after the Congress had built Punjab and taken it to the number one spot in the country in 45 years.

Accompanied by senior party leaders, including Mrs Ambika Soni, Mr K. Natwar Singh, Mr Moti Lal Vora, Mr Hari Prasad, Mr H.S. Hanspal, Mr Yogindra Makwana, Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Mrs Sonia Gandhi flew into this backward town in a helicopter of the Indian Air Force and was joined by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh. It was not only her first election rally in Punjab but also the first visit by the president of any major national political party to this town of the Doaba belt.

The rally was, however, brief and crisp and lasted less than half-an-hour with Mrs Gandhi’s crisp, sharp and hard hitting address lasting about 12 minutes.

It was Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, local MP, who welcomed Mrs Gandhi while Capt Amarinder Singh, talked about various problems of this backward belt. He promised to take measures for improving the quality of life, including provision of drinking water, here.

After Mrs Gandhi’s address, the Congress and CPI candidates from Balachaur, Nawanshahr, Shyam Chaurasi, Tanda, Nangal and Anandpur Sahib were introduced to the audience.

“We make promises which are fulfilled. I made it clear to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee that we should make only those promises which we can fulfil as our party has principles. We have suffered in the past,” she said with a dig on the SAD-BJP alliance, alleging that they “forgot all promises they made to people of Punjab and instead of consolidating the gains of extermination of terrorism brought by previous Congress government in the state, they have brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

“In the last five years of their rule, they have brought corruption everywhere. Crime is on the increase. People do not expect any justice. Irresponsible people occupy seats of governance and responsibility. The state has come to such a pass that the state does not have the money to pay even salaries to its employees. They must go. They have been tested for five years and cannot be trusted again.”

Mrs Gandhi said there was hardly any section of society which was happy with this government. “Do farmers get enough power supply? Are the youths getting their aspirations fulfilled ? Do citizens feel safe and secure ? If the answer to these questions is no, then who is responsible for all this? Such people must be taught a lesson. Compare Punjab with Congress-run states.

“If you trust us, give us a chance and we promise we will take Punjab back on the road of development and prosperity,” she said.

Varinder Singh adds from Jalandhar: The Congress reassured the people of the state that it will not allow itself to make hollow promises just for sake of votes.

Addressing a rally at the local PAP Grounds, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday claimed her party would have a “no-nonsense” attitude over issues like corruption and development. Even Congress MLAs and ministers would not be allowed to “sacrifice” the interests of people.

She received a thunderous applause when she started her speech by folding her hands and saying, “ Sat Sri Akal”. Praising Punjabis, she said they had made maximum sacrifices for the country during the freedom struggle.

Dubbing the SAD-BJP government in the state and NDA government at the Centre as “most corrupt”, she asserted that corruption would not be allowed to flourish in the Congress ruled states.

“There is no use of any government if it fails to fulfil aspirations of people. But the SAD-BJP government has shattered your hopes. How can you forgive them for their betrayal?” she questioned people.

Apart from holding the SAD-BJP combine responsible for “widespread” corruption, Mrs Gandhi said there was no law and order in the state and political interference in administrative affairs had “ruined” Punjab.

She was all praise for Punjabis and their ability to resurrect themselves, particularly, after the turmoil caused by Partition.

Mrs Gandhi said the priority of the Congress, in Punjab, would be the uplift of the farming class, streamlining of education and health sectors and bridging the gap between rural and urban areas by ensuring equal development.

Kulwinder Sandhu adds from Abohar: Ms Gandhi appealed to the people of Punjab not to trust SAD-BJP candidates in the Assembly elections while addressing massive public gathering here on Tuesday afternoon. She said the Punjab Government had betrayed the people of the state in the name of false promises of development.

Ms Gandhi further said that the Punjab Government has misused the public funds for filling their own pockets. The state exchequer is over-burdened with thousands of crores borrowed from the Centre or from the other agencies. The money released by the Finance Commission for development work was misused for other purposes.



The venue of the Congress rally at Balachaur was tastefully decorated with party flags, banners and buntings. There were cut-outs of Ms Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Capt Amarinder Singh. But there were neither any cut-outs nor pictures of Indira Gandhi anywhere in the pandal.


Folk singer Kuldip Manak was invited to entertain the audience. He could present only one song before the stage secretary took control of the proceedings.


There was a commotion when security officials prevented Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP, from climbing the dais. It was at the instance of Capt Amarinder Singh that he got on to the dais. Soon after Ms Sonia Gandhi arrived at the venue of the rally, Ms Ambika Soni gave her a list, which was probably of the party candidates contesting from various constituencies of Ropar, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr.

Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, MP, apologised to the audience for any inconvenience caused because of the security checks at the entrance to the venue of the rally. He appreciated the cooperation and good work done by the police.


Soon after Ms Sonia Gandhi finished her speech, there was some confusion. Those in the audience were pleasantly surprised that such an important election rally could be so “short and crisp”. “What do we do now,” they asked before the organisers decided to allow some of the guest speakers, including Mr Rao Rangila Ram of Himachal Pradesh, to speak. But by that time, the people had started moving out.


Soon after the rally ended, some of the enterprising youths headed for cut-outs of Rajiv Gandhi, Ms Sonia Gandhi and Capt Amarinder Singh and took them away.

In Jalandhar

Ms Sonia Gandhi began her speech with “Sat Sri Akal”, which was responded to by the gathering with claps and slogans like “Congress zindabad” and “Sonia Gandhi zindabad”.


Army personnel were deployed behind the stage and around the high-security PAP Grounds, the venue of the rally. The helicopter carrying her was escorted by an Army helicopter.


As Mr Balbir Singh, MP, presented her with a swords, Ms Gandhi, walved it around for a while in a stylish manner and announced the entry of Congress in the poll arena with full force.


Ms Gandhi kept wearing a 20-year-old “phulkari” presented to her by DCC (rural) chief Chaudhary Manjinder Singh till the conclusion of her 20-minute speech.


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