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Sonia Storms the Sena Citadel

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi ended her campaign for the Maharashtra assembly election by addressing a rally in the powerloom town of Bhiwandi and undertaking a mass contact programme in adjacent Mumbai, home of the Shiv Sena.

Addressing a huge rally in this communally sensitive town in Thane district, Gandhi warned her audience against parties out to 'break society'.

According to MPCC office-bearer Muzaffar Hussain, who hails from Thane district, the rally was such a success that Sonia Gandhi's entire schedule was thrown out of gear. "People were lining both sides of the road to the helipad 15km away," Hussain told and she was stopping every now and then to alight and meet the people and talk to them. She was supposed to leave Bhiwandi at 11am, but finally left a little past noon."

It was after 19 years that a member of the Gandhi family was visiting Bhiwandi. The late Rajiv Gandhi had visited the town back in 1985.

Sonia Gandhi at the Bhiwandi rally. Also present on the dais were state Congress president Prabha Rau and Republican Party of India MP Ramdas Athavale

Photograph: Arun Patil

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