Sonia launches campaign with Pawar, attacks communal parties

April 10th, 2009 - 5:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Sakoli (Maharashtra), April 10 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi Friday teamed up with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar to launch a joint poll campaign in Maharashtra and hit out at saffron parties saying people did not want forces that propagated communalism.
Sharing a dais with Pawar in this town in Vidarbha region, the first joint rally of the two leaders, Gandhi said the nation faced a major threat from communal forces that must be defeated.

Though she did not name any party in her brief speech, she said: “The country is well aware who are the leaders and the forces who spread venom among the people with the speeches.”

Addressing a rally in this town about 900 km from state capital Mumbai, the Congress chief said people in the country were aware of the designs of parties rooted in communalism, casteism and regionalism. The town is considered a bastion of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine.

“They no longer want such parties whose leaders incite communal riots with their speeches and even treat terrorists like guests and send them to Afghanistan.”

She also listed as an achievement the farm loan waiver schemes announced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government last year, considered a crucial electoral plank in the eastern Maharashtra region where many farmers have committed suicide.

Discussing the UPA government’s achievements in the past five years, Gandhi heaped praise on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

This was echoed by Pawar, who in his short speech urged the people to vote the UPA back to power in the next elections.

“We are confident that the UPA will return to power and continue to work for the development of the country,” he said.

He also recalled the contributions made by the party candidate Praful Patel in the development of Vidarbha region and at the centre. Senior NCP leader and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who is contesting the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat, was also present.

The Congress and the NCP are hoping that the joint two-day campaign by their leaders would help them perform better in the elections. In the last elections in 2004, the Congress-NCP could bag only one of the 11 seats in Vidarbha with the rest going to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.

The Congress and NCP will have four joint rallies across Vidarbha, culminating in a road show in Nagpur. The joint ventures are expected to send out the right signals of unity to their cadres.

Relations between the two parties have been under stress with Pawar attending a meeting of the Left and the Biju Janata Dal, both opponents of the Congress in Orissa, leading to speculation that the NCP was charting its own course in the elections.

On Saturday, Gandhi is scheduled to address a rally in Ramtek followed by a road show in Nagpur.

Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats and goes to the polls over three phases on April 16, 23 and 30.

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