Promising secularism, welfare, Sonia kicks off Andhra campaignFebruary 27th, 2009 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS
Kothagudem (Andhra Pradesh), Feb 27 (IANS) As hundreds of thousands of people turned up to hear her speak, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Friday kicked off the party’s election campaign in Andhra Pradesh, saying “secularism and people’s welfare” were her party’s principles unlike others who made “hollow promises” on these issues.
“For some people, secularism, social justice and people’s welfare are mere slogans and hollow promises but for the Congress party these are the principles,” she said, addressing the massive public gathering in this coal town in Khammam district.
Braving the scorching sun, over 200,000 people, mostly tribals, attended the meeting at the 60-acre plus Chunchupalli grounds.
Though the district is part of Telangana, Gandhi was silent on the demand for separate statehood to the backward region ahead of the general elections expected in April-May. During the 2004 campaign, she had promised to respect the sentiments of the Telangana people.
She called upon people to reject opposition parties saying they had no achievement to their credit.
“The elections are approaching. Some people, who were hardly seen for the last five years, will come amidst you. They neither have any achievement to their credit nor any programme for people’s welfare. They can only blame others and make hollow promises,” she said.
The show of strength by the ruling party was significant as Khammam district is considered a Communist bastion. The meeting was held in the Lok Sabha constituency represented by union Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhary.
The Left parties, which were allies of the Congress party in the previous elections in 2004, are now constituents of the grand opposition alliance, which also includes the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).
Gandhi, who arrived on a two-day visit to the state, said Andhra Pradesh had a special relationship with the Congress party and hoped that people would once again vote the party to power.
“We trust you and we have confidence in the work we have done during the last five
years,” she said.
Listing the development and welfare schemes taken up by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre and the Congress government in the state, she said the party’s vision was to ensure education, health and security to all.
She also referred to the development works taken up in the region, including Rajiv Sagar and Indira Sagar projects, which on completion will irrigate 400,000 acres in Khammam district alone.
She claimed the Congress party had fulfilled its promise made five years ago by taking a slew of measures to help the common man.
“You may remember the conditions that prevailed in your state five years ago. The memories of those days still pain me. I had seen the miseries of farmers and the neglect by then TDP government in 2002 in Anantapur,” she said.
The UPA chairperson, who earlier launched a pension scheme for members of self-help groups and laid the foundation stone for a permanent campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Medak district, later returned to Hyderabad and left for Port Blair.
She will return to Hyderabad on Saturday to address a public meeting at Secunderabad parade grounds.
-Indo-Asian News Service