Sonia Gandhi sounds election bugle in Andhra Pradesh (Second Lead)September 11th, 2008 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS
Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Sep 11 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday sounded the election bugle in Andhra Pradesh by addressing two massive public meetings and seeking another term for the ruling Congress party.Addressing a meeting in Anantapur to wind-up her day-long visit to the state, she claimed that the Congress party brought a complete transformation since it came to power in the state and at the centre in 2004 and exuded confidence that people would continue their support to the party.
The public meetings at Anantapur and Tirupati set the tone for the ruling party’s election campaign.
Simultaneous elections to the state legislative assembly and Lok Sabha are likely to be held in March-April next year.
The Congress president said the Congress party alone could take the country forward economically in an atmosphere of brotherhood among different communities as the party believed in secularism and equal respect for all religions.
“TDP (Telugu Desam Party) or no other party has genuine and deep commitment for people, especially for poor,” she told a crowd of about 400,000.
Sonia Gandhi’s visit was significant in view of the recent political developments in the state, especially launching of Praja Rajyam by Telugu superstar-turned-politician Chiranjeevi.
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy also used the occasion to criticise Chiranjeevi. “Some film actors are coming forward and saying they want to serve people. Don’t believe them. Tell them that public service is not acting,” he told people without naming the actor.
The Congress president lavished praise on Rajasekhara Reddy’s government. “Nowhere in the country so many development schemes have been taken up as in Andhra Pradesh,” she said.
She noted that the state was leading in women’s empowerment, pensions, insurance coverage and housing for weaker sections. “Self-help group movement has brought a silent revolution in the state and I am proud of what my sisters have achieved in Andhra Pradesh,” she said.
Terming the India-US nuclear deal a ‘historic step’, she said energy was the greatest need of the country.
“We need more electricity to bring the pace of development on par with developed countries. We need more nuclear projects to produce electricity for our homes, industry, towns and villages,” she said.
She listed out the steps taken by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre and made a special mention of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), farm loan waiver and bill to provide 33 percent reservation to women in parliament and assemblies.
Earlier, addressing a gathering of 200,000 women members of SHGs at Tirupati, she promised development of this temple town.
She promised international status to the Tirupati airport, setting up of 300-bed hospital for children and development of Sri Venkateshwara Institute of Medical Sciences.
She said the UPA government has already announced plans for expansion and modernisation of the Tirupati railway station at a cost of Rs.20 billion.
“Given the historical and religious importance of this town, the government is taking a series of steps for its development,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi said upgradation of the Tirupati airport would not only benefit pilgrims but also generate new economic activity and employment opportunities.
Earlier, the UPA chairperson praised the state government for taking the lead in women’s empowerment in the country.
She said the performance of the state government to empower women was not only admired by the rest of the country but had also aroused curiosity abroad.
“During my visit to other countries, I am often asked by women leaders about the programmes taken up by the Andhra Pradesh government,” she said while interacting with members of SHGs.
“I wish to congratulate the chief minister for his leadership in ensuring women get fully empowered,” she said in the presence of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
Andhra Pradesh accounts for one-third of SHGs in the country. They are doing a commendable job in poverty reduction in rural areas. There are about 8.8 million women members of the SHGs, which get soft loans from the state government to run small businesses.