Sunday, April 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong ready for poll: Sonia
Says remarks show PM has lost mental balance
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

Congress President Sonia Gandhi addresses a Press conference
Congress President Sonia Gandhi addresses a Press conference in Guwahati on Saturday.

Congress ruled state Chief Ministers attend their party President Sonia Gandhi's Press conference
Congress ruled state Chief Ministers attend their party President Sonia Gandhi's Press conference in Guwahati on Saturday. — PTI photos

Guwahati, April 13
Predicting the fall of the BJP-led government at the Centre due to increasing differences with its coalition partners, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said the “communal” BJP stood exposed as the “mask” of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had fallen.

Ms Gandhi, in her first press conference in more than two years, was aggressive and hard-hitting against Mr Vajpayee. In response to a question about the Prime Minister’s challenge to the Congress to dethrone him, Ms Gandhi said Mr Vajpayee made such statements when his mental balance was not normal.

“When the Prime Minister’s mental balance is disturbed, he makes such statements. I don’t think I need to answer,” she said.

Ms Gandhi said the Congress was fully prepared for any snap poll in Gujarat and to the Lok Sabha. “It is for them (the Central Government) to decide when to hold the polls, she said.

The contradictions between the BJP and the coalition partners had worsened in the past few days and would bring down the government, Ms Gandhi said. “We need not do anything ...let us see where can they end up. Not feeling the necessity for the Congress to enter into coalitions to return to power at the Centre, she said a decision on the issue would be taken “whenever the time comes.”

Terming as “hypothetical, a question about the Congress forming an alternative at the Centre, Ms Gandhi, however, said talks of the Congress with the NDA allies would continue. “It is good to talk. We have done it in the past,” she said. She termed communalism as the greatest challenge facing the country, saying that the Congress would always work with like-minded parties on the issue.

To a question about BJP President K. Jana Krishnamurthi’s remarks at Goa, Ms Gandhi said the Congress did not indulge in politics of confrontation.

On POTA, she said though it was now the law of the land, the Congress Chief Ministers felt that present laws were perfectly adequate to deal with law and order problems. The Congress, she reminded, had opposed the “draconian law tooth and nail.”

Maintaining that 14 Congress governments would strive to reach higher targets, Ms Gandhi praised Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala for some of their schemes.

Asked about the weak position of the Congress in four big states of UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, and the possible anti-incumbency factor in the 14 Congress-ruled states, Ms Gandhi admitted that the party had to work much harder in some states. But the general feeling throughout the country was that the Congress was the “only party of governance,” she said. “People are fed up with the BJP-led government and have seen coalitions. They are looking to the good old days of the Congress, Ms Gandhi said.

The Congress president ruled out a major reshuffle at the AICC, saying that a few changes would be made.

On LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s recent remarks, she said he stood accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assasination case. “The Indian Government has asked for his extradition. I do not think they (the NDA government) has changed its stand.

At the end of their meeting, the 14 Congress Chief ministers adopted a Guwahati resolve which among other things, said they would pay the highest attention to reforms in the power sector. A Congress CMs’ council, headed by the Congress President, has also been set up which will meet once in every four months.


Congress Chief Ministers, AICC general secretaries and senior leaders were seated on the sides of the “mandap” on the lawns of Hotel Brahamputra Ashok where the Congress President held one of her few interactions with the media. Starting on the scheduled time, it lasted for almost 30 minutes. in her responses, which were mostly in English, Ms Gandhi, however, did deflect a question or two saying, “I don’t think I need to answer.”

* * *

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s appeal for a boycott of Gujarat poll by the Opposition parties was squarely dismissed with a smile. “Where is Mr Mulayam Singh’s party in Gujarat? she said.

* * *

Her remarks about the Prime Minister making certain statements when his mental balance was disturbed led to some glances of surprise. Even Ms Gandhi paused for a moment looking towards a nodding Ms Ambika Soni who was sitting at the back.

* * *

Ms Gandhi responded to questions about the North-East in detail, mentioning how MPs from the North-East, including Dr Manmohan Singh, an MP from Assam who could not come for the meeting due to ill-health, strived towards greater budgetary allocation for these states.

* * *

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, made only a brief presentation at the meeting as he, along with the new Chief Ministers of Uttaranchal and Manipur, were “students” at the third meet of the Congress Chief Ministers.Back

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