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Kesri blasts Deve Gowda

Congress president Sitaram Kesri on Saturday hit back at former prime minister H D Deve Gowda for describing him as "an old man in a hurry".

Delivering his presidential speech to the 80th Congress plenary session in Calcutta, he said, "I must confess, I am in a terrible hurry. This old man is in a hurry to liberate the youth of India from the bonds of desperation and despondency," he said in his presidential address at the plenary session.

Just before stepping down as prime minister following withdrawal of support by the Congress, Deve Gowda had called Kesri "an old man in a hurry" in the Lok Sabha.

In his address, Kesri said, "I look to the future. I am looking to the next millennium, to an India that is strong, prosperous and egalitarian.

"This old man is in a hurry to liberate the minorities from the bonds of fear. Yes, I am in a hurry to tell the minorities that India will always remain a secular nation.

"And this old man is in a hurry to liberate the dalits from the bonds of indignities and insults. I am in a hurry to tell them that no one can deny them their rightful share in national power and national resources.

"And I am also in a hurry to tell the captains of industry that liberalisation must be for all, must be seen to be for all -- not just for the rich or for the upper middle class.

"And I am in a tearing hurry to prepare the Congress, rejuvenate it, re-energise it to take over in Delhi in a few years," Kesri stated.

He also said the theory that the era of coalition governments had dawned at the Centre was "erroneous, dangerous and factually incorrect".

Explaining the reasons for withdrawing support to the Deve Gowda government, Kesri said instead of checking the growing communal menace with the help of the Congress, the United Front started marginalising the party.

He also said the party would take action against those leaders who had leaked the draft political resolution to the media before it was taken up by the steering committee on Thursday.

Certain changes were made in the passage on the Babri Masjid issue following objections raised by the committee members. He said Sharad Pawar took strong exception to the passage which he said was ''self-condemnatory''.

Meanwhile, former Union minister Madhavrao Scindia on Saturday criticised the United Front government.

Moving the political resolution at the session, Scindia said the party should not hesitate to mobilise public opinion against poor "functioning" of the government.

Describing the coalition government at the Centre as "strange," he said all the 14 constituents of the Front behaved like chieftains while Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral was a "mere minister".

The Front, Scindia said, could not provide a satisfactory government at the Centre as all its constituents wanted to have their separate identity.

"Though we support the government, let us not forget that we have to take up public issues to strengthen our organisation," he said.

The Congress, he suggested, should force the government to include its programme in the Front's agenda.

Stressing the need for strengthening the Congress, Scindia suggested that all general secretaries and joint secretaries should tour the states for at least 10 days every month to establish links with the grassroots.

Scindia said during the past five years no attempt was made to strengthen the party organisation resulting in its defeat in the last Lok Sabha election.

He welcomed Sonia Gandhi's first speech to any All India Congress Committee session and hoped her presence would induce enthusiasm among party workers.

Speaking on the political resolution, another former minister Rajesh Pilot said Congressmen ''lacked the spirit of introspection''. He said the share of Congress votes came down to 20 per cent in the last general election from a massive 45 per cent in the first election in 1952.


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