Asks people not be fooled by false propaganda

At her only public rally in Tamil Nadu for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi refrained from any criticism of the DMK or the AIADMK, save for a brief reference to the latter, on Wednesday.

Addressing a large gathering of partymen at a nondescript venue, five km away from this coastal town, Ms. Sonia said no party had done as much as the Congress for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils and people should not be fooled by false propaganda.

After 2009, the Centre had extended all kinds of assistance for resettlement (of Sri Lankan Tamils after the end of internal war), including housing, educational and economic revival efforts. She said the Congress government had done its utmost to ensure safety and rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils who would be able to decide their own political destiny.

Only due to the efforts of the Congress-led Centre, the Tamil Nadu fishermen were released and repatriated. It was again the Centre that arranged the bilateral talks between the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan in January. “It took considerable efforts to get concurrence of the AIADMK government,” she noted without a touch of blame.

When she claimed credit for protecting the (Tamil) fishermen, the crowd, in this coastal town, was initially blank but when TNCC leader Peter Alphonse translated it, there were some cheers.

The party can only hope that her campaign would serve as a morale booster in the last leg of campaigning ahead of the April 24 polls. “Some people say Congress is alone in the State. Judging by what is happening here, Congress is not alone,” she said to the crowd’s delight.

Initially, she made a mention of Kamaraj, who was sent to the Lok Sabha from this constituency. After reading the list of demands of people in the region, Ms. Sonia promised to implement them, which included double railway track from Chennai to Kanyakumari, a Central University, airport and a few other infrastructural needs, if the Congress was voted to power.

Ms. Sonia walked towards the crowd at the end of her speech to the delight of thousands who had gathered for hours under hot, humid conditions.

The moment her helicopter became visible, the crowd went ecstatic and waved to her from the ground en masse. They all had to travel distances in hundreds of vans and walk one km or two to reach the venue. They were only jubilant.

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