Congress President Sonia Gandhi today slammed Telugu Desam Party and BJP over their poll alliance in Andhra Pradesh, saying both were "two sides of the same coin" that were set to damage India's "secular" fabric.
"They are old friends and have come together once again.
They will only strengthen the communal forces and damage our secular fabric. A vote for the TDP is a vote for the BJP," she warned, addressing an election meeting of the Congress that saw a very thin attendance here this evening.
A vote for the TDP-BJP combine would be a "divisive vote" that would spread disharmony, the UPA Chairperson said.
The Congress chief said it was only TDP that did not walk out from the NDA after the Godhra riots in Gujarat along with other outfits that left the BJP-led bloc.
"Only the Congress always stood for secular values and principles and never ever compromised on them. It is on these values and principles that (former PMs) Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi became martyrs."
Hitting out at YSR Congress, she recalled that late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was a loyal Congress leader.
"YSR was a valued and loyal member of our party. The Congress gave him an opportunity to serve the people and he worked hard to implement our policies."
Alluding to YSR's son and YSRC chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, Gandhi said: "People who exploit his name choose to ignore the fact that YSR dedicated his entire life to the Congress. It's the Congress that gives us, including myself, an identity."
Saying that a vote for the Congress would be a support for a "new and resurgent Seemandhra", Gandhi appealed to the people to vote (on May 7) for a "strong, stable and secular" government led by her party in New Delhi.
Apparently in an indication of the anger among the people of Seemandhra region over Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation, empty chairs filled the Andhra Muslim College Grounds on the Ponnuru Road here as Gandhi addressed the party's election rally during her maiden visit to coastal Andhra after the division.
he Congress President clearly appeared ill-at-ease addressing a sparse crowd of just about 7,000 people that mostly remained indifferent and did not even cheer her during the 30-minute address.
"I don't grudge your criticism or anger," Gandhi remarked, even as she took pains to explain the reason for the state's bifurcation and asked people to "look forward".
"The state re-organisation was done in a manner that protects the interests of Seemandhra. It is done in full fairness to Seemandhra," Gandhi stressed and listed out the various provisions in the AP Reorganisation Act-2014 that she said would address the needs of the region.
"For the first time in a reorganisation act, a special development package has been given for Seemandhra. Special boards are being set up for distribution of Krishna and Godavari river waters while the Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project has been given national status that will ensure 90 per cent funding from the Centre." She said Seemandhra would get 90 per cent of funds from the Centre as grant and balance 10 per cent as loan under the Special Category State status.
Referring to Hyderabad, whose status was a key issue for Seemandhra people in the entire division issue, the Congress chief noted that every family from the region had one of its members working in the capital city.
"I have no doubt...no doubt...that Seemandhra will become an economic powerhouse in the country. And, new cities like Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Guntur, Nellore will emerge as serious competitors to Hyderabad.
"My party is committed to protect the social, cultural and financial interests of everyone in Hyderabad. In line with this, the Governor has been entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring security of all in Hyderabad," she pointed out.
AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh, APCC President N Raghuveera Reddy, Union Ministers Panabaka Lakshmi, J D Seelam, K Chiranjeevi and other leaders attended the rally.