Sonia seeks quota for economically backward
By Javed M. Ansari
MEERUT (U.P.), OCT. 20. The Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, today demanded reservation for the economically backward among the minorities and upper castes. Ms. Gandhi who was addressing a public rally here, said the party welcomed the decision for a special quota for the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) in the State. But she sought to set her party apart from the others by stating that the Congress believed in speaking for all sections of society. ``Others demand reservations only for their own people, Ours is the only party which is not influenced by considerations of caste or religious affiliation''.
During her 25-minute speech, she repeatedly said while her party was modern, progressive, its priorities firmly focussed on development and social harmony, the other parties were divisive and unstable. ``The Congress has a vision for the future, the others live in the past, we want to build a stable and harmonious society, others believe in dividing people. For us secularism is not just a slogan, it is an article of faith. Social justice is our motto and development is not just a poll promise, it is our responsibility,`` she said.
Ms. Gandhi referred to the industrial and economic stagnation in U.P. and said that in the 12 years non-Congress Governments had done nothing for the betterment of the people. Speaking before a predominantly rural audience and that too in the kisan heartland, she dwelt at length on the farmers' problems the non-payment of dues to sugarcane growers, the erratic power supply and closure of sugar mills.
She attacked the BJP-led Government at the Centre and the State Government. She charged the State Government with trying to divide the people on communal lines and urged them not to fall prey to such machinations. ``Corruption is on the rise, there is an economic slowdown, industry has been hit and the people are no longer secure. She also made a veiled reference to the reinduction of Mr. George Fernandes as the Defence Minister. ``They have handed over a sensitive charge to a person who is yet to be cleared of wrong-doing, what kind of people are they,'' she asked.
The confidence of the Congress leadership appears to have received a boost after the Lucknow rally and one held today.
Ms. Gandhi made little attempt to hide it,`` those who wrote us off, must be very disappointed after these two rallies''.
She said that now there was no looking back, `` we will not rest or go back on the course we have undertaken''.
She admitted that her party had made mistakes in the past and urged the people of U.P. to renew their special relationship with the party.
A major mobilisation effort on the part of the local MP, Mr. Avtaar Singh Bhadana saw a large turnout of OBCs and Muslims who over the years had drifted away from the party.