NATIONAL

Central Govt. vindictive, say Cong. leaders

CHENNAI OCT. 10. Congress leaders, including several Chief Ministers, made a beeline for Chennai today to participate in the function to dedicate to the nation the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur.

Interacting with the media here, they hit out at the BJP-led Government at the Centre for "being vindictive and manipulating the CBI to initiate cases against the Congress Chief Ministers".

Stating that the Congress was very confident of "defeating" the BJP in the coming Assembly elections, the Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dixit, said "there are no problems and the Congress has done very good developmental work and it is for all of them in New Delhi and everybody in India to see what development we have done. On the contrary, the BJP is known only to talk and not to work".

The Kamaraj Domestic Terminal was abuzz with hectic activity as the Congress party functionaries and workers gathered at the entry point to cheer the leaders who arrived by different flights between 9 a.m. and 12-30 p.m.. The arrival hall was virtually converted into a Congress party enclosure with the cadres raising slogans such as `Rajiv Gandhi zindabad' and `Sonia Gandhi zindabad'.

Ms. Dixit, who arrived along with the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, and the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, said the recent defeat of the Congress in the byelections in Solapur in Maharashtra and Ernakulam in Kerala would have "no impact. Anyway in the poll battle, you lose some and you win some".

Ambika Soni, AICC general secretary, who also arrived along with Capt. Amarinder Singh, said: "The Congress is preparing to face the ensuing elections on the basis of the work done on developmental initiatives, especially on the social, economic empowerment, by the Congress-ruled State Governments. And I think we have run very transparent Governments, especially in the drought-affected States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh despite the NDA Government at the Centre not giving help."

The Maharashtra Chief Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, said it was up to the party high command to take up the issue of "misusing the CBI to initiate politically-motivated cases" against the Congress leaders.

He said eradicating terrorist activities was a global problem and not that of the State alone.

"Terrorism cannot be identified with any caste, creed or community. It is not only the State's problem. It is an international and people's problem."

Apart from the Chief Ministers, a host of Congress leaders, including Arjun Singh, M.L. Fotedar, K. Natwar Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janardhan Poojary, Motilal Vohra, R.K. Dhawan, Pranab Mukherjee and Mani Shankar Aiyar participated in the function.

The TNCC leaders, led by E.V.K.S. Elangovan, S. Balakrishnan, Jayanthi Natarajan and the AICC Secretary, G.K. Vasan, greeted the Congress leaders who arrived from New Delhi.

While Priyanka Gandhi and her husband, Robert Vadra, arrived by a scheduled flight. The party president, Sonia Gandhi, arrived by a special aircraft at 12.35 p.m.

After exchanging pleasantries and acknowledging the greetings of the party leaders at the ceremonial lounge, Ms. Gandhi drove straight to the Raj Bhavan before leaving by helicopter to Sriperumbudur.

She returned to Delhi by the special aircraft later in the evening.

Security was beefed up in and around the Chennai airport complex in view of the arrival of Ms. Gandhi and the departure of the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, to Sriharikota and Sriperumbudur and the arrival of the Congress Chief Ministers.