12.25 pm: Sonia ignores Modi, attacks development claims instead
And the speech is over. And despite great expectations that she would take on the Gujarat Chief Minister over his allegations over expenses incurred during her travels abroad for medical treatment, she did not.
Instead the Congress President chose to mantain her stoic silence with regard to the allegations, sticking to a tightly scripted attack on the development platform that Modi has been basing his campaign on.
12.16 pm: Sonia attacks BJP on caste violence, corruption
We have now moved from welfare schemes to caste violence and corruption. Corruption is also a poison that has pervaded our system. Which is why we have taken action against those found to be engaging in it”, she said.
Gandhi went on to attack the BJP over coalgate, saying that despite the CAG report, the BJP was not ready to take action against its state Chief Ministers and only disrupted Parliament for the sake of opposing the Congress.
“People who don’t let Parliament function, are they against corruption or are they against democracy and consensus? I leave it to you to decide, you are wise people. These people are not against corruption and are just opposing us.”, she said.
12.17 pm: Sonia looks as though she’s taking the high road
Sonia Gandhi seems to be completely avoiding Modi’s allegations against her foreign travel expenditure and firmly sticking to a script of attacking the BJP on its claims of development.
She says that while the Congress is taking many steps to reduce the burden on the people, the same cannot be said of the BJP government in Gujarat. “Perhaps the amount of funds that have been sent to Gujarat is being concealed from you”, she said. She also questioned why the VAT on fuel was not being reduced when it was the highest in the country.
The Congress President is also talking about FDI in retail. “FDI will allow farmers to get the right price for their produce. Why are CMs attempting to deceive people on it I wonder. I wish to ask is it not the right of farmers to get the right price for their produce?”
12.14 pm: Sonia says BJP is witholding benefits of welfare schemes from the people
The Congress President is now accusing the BJP of ignoring the poor farmers in the state, and not extending the benefits of Congress engineered welfare schemes to them. “I am saddened that in the last five years none of the benefits of schemes have reached regions like Saurashtra. The state government should send recommendations to centre quickly so that farmers here can get relief packages”, she said.
Gandhi adds that the Congress is also aware of the woes of fishermen in this region and promises to pay attention to these issues as well.
12.11 pm: Sonia talks of Congress contribution to Gujarat, no Modi mentions so far
Sonia Gandhi seems to be staying away from Modi at present, concentrating instead on the people of the region, Mahatma Gandhi, and the work of the Congress party in the state. Her only hit at the BJP so far is that it is not interested in the progress of the nation.
“Congress party has always accepted the Mahatma’s ideals & followed them. We have miles to go ahead, but have come miles since 1947. Many people make many claims but no one has done as much for Gujarat as the Congress party has”, she said.
12.06 pm: Sonia Gandhi takes mic, thanks crowd
Sonia Gandhi has taken the mic at the rally. Is it just us or is she facing some audio problems? She begins by thanking the crowd for coming in their numbers and standing in the heat.
11.44 am: Sonia Gandhi at rally venue
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has arrived at her rally venue to great cheers by the crowds. She is accompanied by several senior Congress leaders and is expected to address the crowd shortly. Will she take on Modi or maintain her silence?
11.15 am: Sonia Gandhi arrives at Rajkot for pre poll rally
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has just arrived in Rajkot for her pre-poll rally. While she is expected to speak only about drought relief and the party’s campaign in the state, what remains to be seen is if she will take on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his barbs on expenditure for her trips abroad.
The Congress President’s rally at a farmer’s convention, comes a day after the Gujarat Chief Minister continued to question her over expenses incurred during her travels abroad for medical treatment.
Her speech today is largely expected to deal with the plight of farmers in the state and could speak about sops for them ahead of the state polls.
However, what everyone will be listening for, is the elephant in the room: Namely the allegations that Modi has been levelling against her throughout his campaign. So far, although the Congress has condemned the statements made by Modi, Gandhi and her family members have chosen to maintain a stoic silence. While some say she may not engage in Modi to prevent giving him fodder for his campaign in the state, whether her silence will affect the party just as much also remains to be seen.
Meanwhile the BJP has reminded her to use Parliamentary language while addressing the crowds this time around, unlike during the last pre poll campaign when she referred to the Gujarat Chief Minister as “the merchant of death”.
11.00am: Elaborate security arrangements for Sonia visit
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the Congress president’s rally.
“As many as 1,000 policemen have been deployed at the venue as well as on the roads that Gandhi would pass through to visit various places in the city,” a Congress official said.