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Not an election to pick Prime Minister: Sonia

Atiq Khan

Ridicules party leaders staking claim for top post during campaign

— Photo: Subir Roy

IN HER CITADEL: UPA chairperson and Congress candidate for Rae Bareli Sonia Gandhi with District Congress Committee chief Uma Shankar Mishra at a campaign rally in the constituency on Saturday.

RAE BARELI: Congress president and Rae Bareli candidate Sonia Gandhi on Saturday ridiculed attempts by political leaders to stake their claim for the post of prime minister as if the ongoing Lok Sabha elections were for electing the next Prime Minister and not a new government at the Centre.

Ms. Gandhi said it had become a fashion for every leader to express a desire to become Prime Minister.

“Their attention is focussed on the Prime Minister’s chair,” she said.

Addressing the first and possibly her last election rally in Rae Bareli before it goes to the polls on April 30, the sitting MP told the gathering at the Government Inter College ground here that while these leaders were more interested in occupying the Prime Minister’s “kursi” (chair), she and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were concerned with fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the people of the country.

Ms. Gandhi lashed out at the non-Congress governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh and said the Congress is the only party committed to the cause of the common man and would continue to give it top priority.

She expressed the optimism that a stable, secular and experienced government would be formed by the Congress.

Defending Dr. Singh, Ms. Gandhi derided the attempts of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership to run down the Prime Minister as one who could not take decisions on his own. On the contrary, the BJP leader cannot take a decision, or move a step forward without taking directives from an organisation (the RSS). Such a party cannot be relied upon by the people, she said.

On the fight against terrorism, the UPA chairperson said the Congress needed no certificate as its leaders, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, sacrificed their lives to uphold national unity. Ms. Gandhi said that it was the pressure exerted by the UPA government that led Pakistan to admit that the terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attack belonged to that country.

Ms. Gandhi dismissed the BJP charge that the UPA government lacked the will to fight terrorism. She questioned the NDA government’s performance on this front. Only the Congress could guarantee security, she claimed. Describing the Congress as a tradition, she said the party stood for development and social and national unity, unlike the other parties which wanted to divide society on caste and communal lines.

She said despite the obstacles created by the other parties, the UPA government fulfilled almost all the promises made in the party manifesto of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

She listed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, steps taken for the welfare of women, children, Dalits, tribals, OBCs and minorities, the Rs. 65,000 crore loan waiver scheme, the farm support price, Bharat Nirman Yojana and the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for improving power availability as the achievements of the government.

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