Narayanpur (West Bengal): Stressing that the Congress was committed to secularism,
party chief Sonia Gandhi Saturday called for an all-out struggle
against communal forces and ideologies, while terming the
development schemes launched by the UPA government as
Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony of an engineering
institute named after late Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan
Choudhury in this rural belt of West Bengal's Malda district,
Gandhi said: "We should fight communal forces and ideologies with
all our strength."
"Our strength lies in the fact that we are secular. And that is
our treasure. Congress is completely dedicated to protecting this
treasure," she said in this Muslim majority district of West
Bengal, set to hold rural body (panchayat) polls shortly.
"Economic progress, social goodwill and communal harmony should go
hand in hand," she said during her ten-minute speech.
Malda is also one of the few districts in West Bengal where the
Congress still has a strong base, but is now facing a challenge
from the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Gandhi reeled off details about the various development programmes
initiated by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) central
government, led by her party.
Her stress was on government schemes targeted at minorities and
rural masses besides women.
"Since the UPA government was formed under (Prime Minister)
Manmohan Singh's leadership, it has started a series of
revolutionary projects which has strengthened the country's
economic and social foundations," Gandhi said, mentioning the
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and
She referred to the 50 percent reservation given to women in
panchayat bodies, doubling of honorariums of anganwadi workers,
the proposed Nirbhaya Fund and Mahila Bank that will be run by
women and help provide loan for their trade and business.
Gandhi said the government would enact a law to prevent crimes
against women and was trying to pass the food security bill to
ensure no one remained hungry.
In an apparent effort to woo Muslims, she said that for the first
time in independent India, a separate ministry has been formed for
She said development packages have been formulated for 90
districts, including Malda, which have high minority population.
She said Murshidabad -- a neighbouring Muslim-majority district --
had got an extension campus of the Aligarh Muslim University and
has been chosen for a skilled development project meant for the
minorities under the National Rural Livelihood Mission.
Murshidabad is regarded as the Congress' strongest fort in the