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Centre discriminating against Cong. Govts., says Sonia

The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, addressing a press conference at Mount Abu on Saturday. — Photo: Gopal Sungar

The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, addressing a press conference at Mount Abu on Saturday. — Photo: Gopal Sungar  

Mt. Abu (Rajasthan) Nov. 9. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, today launched a broadside against the Vajpayee Government for what she called its ``step-motherly treatment'' towards the Opposition-ruled States. Lamenting the ``partisan manner'' in which the Centre had dealt with the drought situation in various States — showering plenty on Andhra Pradesh while doling out just a fraction of what Rajasthan requested — she said her party would raise the issue during the coming session of Parliament.

Ms. Gandhi was addressing a press conference here at the end of a two-day conclave of the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States.

On the issue of coalitions both at the Centre and in the States, Ms. Gandhi said that though her party preferred to form governments on its own, it was open to aligning with like-minded and secular parties. "Our main aim is to strengthen the party. The ideal situation would be to have our own governments, but we do not have a closed mind on the issue of coalitions.''

Ms. Gandhi was categorical that that the Congress would not indulge in the "politics of split". To a specific question on the political crisis in Uttar Pradesh, she said the "the situation is fluid". "If the BJP-BSP Government falls, then we will look at the situation as it emerges."

Asked whether she thought that Lok Sabha polls might be advanced after Gujarat elections, Ms. Gandhi said she was not an astrologer and she did not know the mind of the Central Government.

``But certainly, Gujarat (results) could have an effect on the Central Government.''

On a possible poll tie-up in Gujarat, she said the AICC general secretary in-charge of the State and the PCC chief, Shankersinh Waghela, were looking at the local and State-level situation.

``If there is a possibility for seat adjustments to defeat the BJP and communal forces, we will do it. The exercise is still on''.

To a question on ``how close she was to becoming the Prime Minister'' four years after she took charge of the party, Ms. Gandhi said ``this is not a question we need to address now''. ``I think we have done quite well. I am fairly satisfied, but we need to make even greater efforts.''

On the contentious issue of disinvestment — particularly in the light of the Punjab Government's decision to go in for the strategic sale of five ``profit-making'' public-sector undertakings in the State, Ms. Gandhi reiterated that the Congress was not in favour of disinvesting profit-making units.

As for the progress made by the Congress-ruled States on the nine-point Guwahati resolve, Ms. Gandhi said she was satisfied with what the Chief Ministers had reported, but conceded that there was still more to be done.

And, to monitor the progress on the Guwahati resolve for good governance, a similar conclave would be held within the next four months to put into place a mechanism for quarterly review of the performance of Congress-ruled States.

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