The Congress policy of uplift of all sections of society is in consonance with the Indian legacy of diverse cultures living together as one. This is the legacy for which the country’s leaders had struggled and laid down their lives.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi called for treasuring this unique characteristic of our national identity in her address at an election rally here on Saturday.

“The cultures of India are like a bouquet of flowers, each with its own unique beauty and scent. This [unity] is our strength. We must cherish this legacy,” Ms. Gandhi said.

Ms. Gandhi said, “For us, the unity of the Bharatiya samaj [Indian people] and India’s position in the world are very important.”

She attributed the progress in Mumbai and Maharashtra to the Congress policies and the hard work of the people.

Alluding to the rhetoric of hate and provincialism, she remarked, “One is hurt on hearing such bitter talk.” She said Mumbai’s heart was as big as the sea beside which it stood.

“Mumbai’s specialty is that it puts up a united front in the face of a challenge or danger. You [Mumbaikars] have given the proof of that many times. There is no doubt that Mumbai is the financial capital of India. It is a working city with a pace of its own. India considers Mumbai as its own city, where people come from all over the country. We have to honour that sentiment.”

Listing the various development activities in Mumbai, comprising the Metro rail, flyovers and an international airport in Navi Mumbai, Ms. Gandhi said the Congress was equally concerned about the displaced people as it was about development. Therefore, the party had legislated rehabilitation of people before implementing development plans.

“Problems arise during the process of development. So we have made laws to rehabilitate people before development work is undertaken. We are worried about the people who toil to eke out a living. We have rehabilitated those who have had to leave their slums. I can say that the alliance [of Congress-NCP] has worked for development. The Congress is a party of progress because we look after all sections of society.”

Up to 50,000 people attended the massive rally. Among the bigwigs present were Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Union Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Rajendra Gawai, leader of a faction of the Republican Party of India, which is in alliance with the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Mr. Patel sought to dispel the perception that the Democratic Front alliance depended, for its success, on the vote division by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

“For us the Shiv Sena and the MNS are two sides of the same coin. We are fighting the MNS with the same strength. We want to finish the communal forces in the country,” he said.

Mr. Chavan said Mumbai and Thane had a lion’s share in government formation. Predictions in the media pointed to a victory for the alliance.