Tuesday, October 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong on comeback trail: Sonia
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Mandi, October 28
Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, today said that her party had reached a pact with the PDP on the chief ministership of Jammu and Kashmir in the larger interest of the country and to honour the verdict of the people who had braved bullets to exercise their franchise.

Addressing a huge rally here, she said the Congress had never played politics in matters concerning the national interest and had not hesitated in sacrificing the party interest for the larger good of the country. It was not an ordinary election, but one held under the shadow of militancy. Congressmen and other people of the troubled state showed exemplary courage in taking up the challenge thrown up by terrorists and came up trumps.

The state had been in turmoil for the past several years and unabated terrorist violence had forced lakhs of Kashmiris to migrate to safer places outside the state. It was for these special considerations that the Congress did not make chief ministership an issue to pave the way for the installation of a coalition government in the state.

She said the BJP had brought the level of politics in the country to a low. The “divisive tactics” being pursued by it to “somehow” retain power even after having lost the confidence of the people had literally ushered in “kalyug”. The traditions established by our leaders and freedom fighters had been destroyed. Hatred, violence and corruption prevailed everywhere. The real face of the BJP, which made all sorts of promises to the people before coming to power, had been exposed. The country had been rocked by scams and scandals under the BJP-led regime.

The people had seen through the BJP game and that is why they were voting the Congress back to power. The winds of change sweeping the country would wipe out the BJP from Himachal Pradesh soon. The Congress was on a comeback trail.

Mrs Gandhi said there was vast scope for the development of hydel power and setting up of agro-based industries in Himachal, but no sincere effort had been made by the BJP on these fronts. Even the tourism industry was on a decline.

The sprawling Paddal Maidan was transformed into a vase sea of humanity as Congressmen from all over the state occupied every inch of available space.

There was a fair sprinkling of women in the crowd which had turned up in colourful traditional attire. Mrs Gandhi was repeatedly applauded during her 20-minute terse address.

Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, all India general secretary of the Congress and in charge of Himachal Pradesh, said the growing popularity of Mrs Gandhi had rattled the BJP leaders who had now started using “indecent” language against her.

She said the Congress had come to power in 15 states with the installation of a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh would be the next in the line.

Mrs Vidya Stokes, Pradesh Congress Committee chief, said the confidence with which Mrs Gandhi had led the party had given a new hope to the country.

She said the Dhumal government had been surviving on “gimmicks”. First, it was creation of districts and now delimitation of Assembly and parliamentary constituencies. There was no need to carry out this constitutional exercise in such undue haste when elections were round the corner. It should be deferred and taken up after the elections.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Legislative Congress Party leader, raised doubts over the manner in which the delimitation was being carried out and urged Mrs Gandhi to take up the matter with the Centre and the delimitation commission and get the exercise deferred. The working proposals clearly indicated that the exercise was being carried out as per the convenience of the state government.

Both Mrs Stokes and Mr Virbhadra Singh asserted that there were no difference in the party and it would take on the BJP unitedly.

However, this did not deter Mrs Gandhi from publicly telling the two leaders to work unitedly, particularly after having made a promise to do so before the public.

Earlier, Mrs Stokes presented a Kangra painting as a memento to Mrs Gandhi.

All Congress leaders, including Mrs Chandresh Kumari, all-India Mahila Congress President, Mr Anand Sharma, AICC spokesperson, legislators, former ministers and heads of various frontal organisations of the party were present at the rally.

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