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Siddharamaiah more popular than Sonia?

March 24, 2009
Watching her performance, quite impressive by my relatively-low yardstick, I couldn't see any point of connect with the crowds, either the ones gathered there or the ones reading about/seeing it through the media's not entirely unbiased words and eyes.

From her arrival at 1.15 pm, and by the time she took the mike at 2 pm, five worthies had made a pitch for the Congress party -- state unit president R V Deshpande, leader of the opposition in the assembly Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress general secretary in charge of Karnataka Ghulam Nabi Azad, the party's most well-known Muslim face in the state C K Jaffer Sharief and strongman Siddharamaiah.

Interestingly, except the uproar on seeing her chopper land, the crowd reserved its maximum applause not for the star of the show, Sonia Gandhi, but Siddharamaiah. Is there something here the party is refusing to see?

And the way Azad pipped Sharief to the lectern despite the latter's name being announced as the next speaker, is an indicator to the not so subtle pressure points within the party. If Sonia noticed this power-play, she gave no indication of it.

That Karnataka's tryst with the BJP isn't none-too-historic is the opinion of out-of-towners like me. The party appears bounded to the lumpen who worked for it during the elections and who are out to extract their pound of flesh in the form of retrograde protests and such -- I cannot think of another excuse for the state government's inability/unwillingness to act against the neanderthals who are running the state's reputation to the ground in the name of Indian 'culture'.

Naturally, the crux of Sonia Gandhi's speech hit out at this aspect of BJP rule, and a bit at the ambitious Third Front.

But an indication of what the future holds was given not by her but the man who sat to her left, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, exhorting the crowds to vote for the Congress, promised them this gem: 'If your vote for Parliament brings about a change, then we will see that this change is reflected at the state-level within a year.'

In other words, vote for the Congress now and we will change the state government in a year.

On terrorism, which many feel will be a crucial issue in the elections, Sonia Gandhi focused little on what her party's government did not do but more on what the National Democratic Alliance government did -- treat the terrorists as guests and hand them over to Afghanistan. And since the issue itself was brought up towards the latter part of her speech, clearly this is not an issue the party is very keen on raising at the hustings.

Image: Rahul Gandhi, widely touted as the Congress's PM-in-waiting, makes his presence felt at the rally.

Also see: 'Sonia Gandhi is an incorrigible moderate'
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