Sonia chants coalition dharma, lashes BJP at AICC

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New Delhi, Nov 17 (UNI) Declaring her commitment to coalition dharma, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today castigated the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat for 'sustained assaults' on Mahatma Gandhi's ideas and ideals and gave a wake up call to party's rank and file to dislodge the BJP government in the state in the coming Assembly elections.

In her nearly 45-minute inaugural address both in English and Hindi at the AICC session at which her son and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi was formally launched into the centre stage of the party, Ms Gandhi condemned the BJP for lowering the dignity and decorum of Parliament by constantly disrupting its proceedings and attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Party.

Ms Gandhi, dressed in white khadi saree, made it clear to the partymen that she was determined to achieve the goal of making the Congress a pre-eminent political force in the country by regaining its past glory.

''We are bringing about certain amendments to the party constitution to revitalise the party and make it capable of facing future electoral challenges.'' Seated on the dais at the day-long session at the Talkatora stadium were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior cabinet ministers, Chief Ministers of Cognress-ruled states, Pradesh Congress Committee Chiefs and top AICC functionaries.

In a stern message to partymen and central ministers, she said they must behave or face action.

She reminded the ministers that they were occupying ministerial and party positions because of the organisation.

''They must remain in touch with the workers at the grass root level and work for strengthening the party in states where it is not in power. There must not be internal bickerings in the party. The ministers and senior functionaries should also refrain from airing their personal views in public on important issues,'' she said.

Ms Gandhi expressed serious concern over the pathetic state of the party in Uttar Pradesh, adding that the party's set up needed to be revamped at the grass root level.

She said the party lost the elections in certain states due to internal fighting. ''We should keep this factor in mind where we have prospects of winning the assembly elections,'' she said, and mentioned in this connection the challenges confronting the party in Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Strongly defending the Indo-US Nuclear deal, Ms Gandhi said the agreement would be good for the country and meet its growing energy needs in agriculture and industry.

Admitting that there were differences within the coalition on the deal, she said the government was trying to evolve a consensus through talks.

In an obvious reference to speculation over an early Lok Sabha poll, the Congress President said her party was duty bound to run the UPA coalition in harmony and coordination.

While highlighting the achievements of the 42-month-old UPA government, she regretted that the Women's Reservation Bill had not so far been passed in Parliament due to lack of political consensus. The Congress was committed to empowering women and making all efforts to fulfil the dream of Rajiv Gandhi by ensuring its early passage.

In an apparent reference to the bloodshed in Nandigram in the Left-ruled West Bengal, she said extremism had to be fought effectively and there must be sensitive and responsive government.

''We have to take into account in these areas the ownership of land and its forcible occupation.'' She said the Centre was ready to assist the state government's concern in maintaining law and order and there was no alternative to political means to tackle the situation.


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