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Panic in NDA evident: Congress

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 5. The Congress claimed to be winning as many as 38 of the 83 Lok Sabha seats which went to the polls today. It said the panic in the National Democratic Alliance was evident from its varied statements, including the petition of the convener, George Fernandes, asking the Election Commission to restrain the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, from talking about the "coffin scam'' in her election rallies.

At the party's press conference, the Congress spokesman, Anand Sharma, said there was no merit in the argument that Ms. Gandhi should not raise the issue as it demoralised the armed forces. "We are only drawing the attention to what has been mentioned in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India. And, did it not demoralise the armed forces when they raised the Bofors issue for successive years?'' At a separate press conference, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Sushil Kumar Shinde, ruled out an early Assembly election in the State. "We will not repeat the mistake the NDA committed at the national level. The NDA insulted the people by calling for an early election as the mandate is for five years.''

As for trimming his Cabinet , Mr. Shinde said the task would be taken up in July when the new law came into effect. About the Assembly election due later this year, he said the Congress would contest it in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party.

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