M A I N   N E W S

Sonia admits to differences on women’s Bill

Chakur (Maharashtra), October 29
Admitting that there was opposition to the women’s reservation Bill from “some colleagues in the Congress” and other constituents of the UPA, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said she would make efforts to convince those were against the measure.

“I have to convince (Union Ministers) Lalu (Prasad), (Dayanidhi) Maran and (Anbumani) Ramadoss. I have to convince some colleagues from our party,” she told a gathering of Congress workers at Chakur, the native place of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, this afternoon.

Mrs Gandhi hinted that the passage of the Bill in Parliament would be an uphill task, saying she has “to convince several people from within and outside the Congress” on the issue. She credited her late husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, with ushering in reservations for women in panchayat bodies.

Referring to remarks made earlier by Mrs Rajni Patil, Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board, on the issue of women’s reservations, Mrs Gandhi said: “I am also trying my best (for the passage of the Bill).”

Stating that grassroot workers were the real strength of the Congress, Mrs Gandhi, in a two-minute address, asked them to work with determination and dedication so that the party can face the challenges ahead.

She spent the better part of an hour listening to grievances of party workers and office-bearers from Maharashtra, especially the Marathwada region.

MLA Kalyan Kale told her that agriculture had become an unviable proposition. The Central Government should offer better support prices to farmers and increase import duty on cotton so that domestic growers get remunerative prices, he said.

Reminding Mrs Gandhi of upcoming polls to local bodies in Maharashtra, including municipal and zilla parishad elections, Kale said decisions taken on issues like agriculture, power shortage and improving rural infrastructure would benefit the party.

Later, addressing a farmers rally at Chakur, Mrs Sonia Gandhi said agriculture was the backbone of the country.

“Without agricultural development, there cannot be development of the country,” she said, adding that agriculture had been given top priority in the 10th Five Year Plan.

Referring to suicides by bankrupt farmers in the state, especially the Vidarbha region, Mrs Gandhi said she was very saddened by the deaths.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced a relief package for affected districts, she said. An expert group had been set up to examine the problem of debts faced by farmers, she said.

Warning that there was an attempt by forces “within and outside the country” to destroy the fabric of social unity, Mrs Gandhi said these designs should be foiled by the people. “No religion teaches people to fight among themselves,” she said. — PTI



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