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Sonia hardsells Manmohan in Punjab
Says only Cong can provide stable and strong govt for taking development projects to logical conclusion
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Congress president Sonia Gandhi holds up a sword presented by her supporters at a party rally in Chandigarh on Sunday. Also seen in the picture is Chandigarh candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi holds up a sword presented by her supporters at a party rally in Chandigarh on Sunday. Also seen in the picture is Chandigarh candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal. — Tribune photo by Vinay Malik

Chandigarh, May 3
Hard selling an "honest and capable" Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Chandigarh and Punjab, AICC President Sonia Gandhi today claimed that only the Congress could provide a stable and strong government at the Centre for taking the development projects to their logical conclusion.

"The need of the hour is a stable and strong government at the Centre. Given its track record, the Congress can provide a government which does not discriminate among people. Only the Congress can provide a government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh, which is firm and visionary," Gandhi said addressing an impressive rally in support of Pawan Bansal, Congress candidate from Chandigarh parliamentary constituency.

Alleging that the rivals of the Congress were levelling allegations as they were bereft of any meaningful issues, she stated that the voters had given other parties opportunities to rule at the Centre and the states. “However, they have frittered away the opportunities with the result that they have been unmasked and exposed before the people," Sonia said in her 13-minute crisp speech.

Even as the BJP-led NDA government saw "shining India", all sections of society, including farmers, women and youth, were fed up under its regime. The electorate voted the Congress to power in 2004 and “we made an honest and capable person like Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister,” she said apparently eyeing the Sikh votes in the city and Punjab.

Hitting back at the NDA regime on the terror issue, she alleged that it was during the BJP-led regime that terrorists were escorted to Kandahar like "guests" . In the backdrop of the diplomatic offensive mounted by New Delhi, Pakistan was forced to accept before the international community that the accused in the Mumbai terror attacks belonged to that country, she said while promising that India's security interests were safe in the hands of the Congress.

Making a fervent appeal to the voters to keep communal forces at bay, the AICC President asserted that the Congress was committed to fighting those forces which were bent upon dividing the country.

In an apparent bid to woo the farmers, whose land was acquired by the government for various projects, Gandhi claimed that the Congress was committed to providing adequate compensation to the farmers.



Strikes a chord in Gurdaspur
Prabhjot Singh/Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Supporters cheer during the Congress rally held at Gurdaspur district in Punjab on Sunday. Tribune photo: S. Chandan

Gurdaspur, May 3
It was a special day for people of this border district. Not only thousands from both urban and rural areas turned out in large numbers to catch a glimpse of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but also to “pledge their solidarity with the son of their soil”. For the past nine consecutive elections, Gurdaspur has been virtually sending an outsider to represent one of the most backward districts of the state. For five terms, it was Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a daughter-in-law of the district, and then for past three terms, it has been Bollywood star Vinod Khanna.

A cross-section of people, both young and old, to whom The Tribune team interacted with during the Congress rally addressed by Sonia, maintained that they had come to pledge their support to one of their own, Partap Bajwa, who is contesting on Congress ticket. Many of the youngsters were sporting T-shirts with picture of Bajwa. Some others had their bodies painted in the Tricolour. A few youngsters had come with dhols and drums and they danced their way to the venue of the rally.

Earlier, Vinod Khanna had brought Salman Khan to campaign for him. Now, the BJP camp is hoping to bring in some more Bollywood stars, including Hema Malini. The turnout at Sona’s rally must have shaken the party.

It looked more of a festive occasion than an election rally. The Tribune team saw participants at the rally boozing to glory.

Though the original time of the rally was 12.30 pm, it was delayed till 3 pm. Because of her late arrival, Sonia not only apologised, but also thanked the audience for patiently waiting for her.

A morale booster

Reiterating that the Congress is the only party that can provide a stable, strong, honest and efficient government at the Centre, Sonia Gandhi today sought total support of electors of Punjab for a second term for the UPA government led by her party.

Eulogising the contribution of Punjabis in all fields in general and agriculture in particular, she said she “salutes” the state and its people. She almost established an emotional chord with audiences in Jalandhar and here on her first leg of campaigning in Punjab today. A visit to the state by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday and Sonia Gandhi today were primarily to reach electors who will go to the polls on May 7, the first of the two scheduled phases in Punjab. And the Congressmen could not have asked for more as the response to all these rallies were impressive.





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