Although Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is not scheduled to hold any meeting with members of the Chandigarh Congress during his visit to the city on Thursday, party leaders have been directed to ensure the presence of a crowd to welcome him at the airport. Having received a blow with the recent defections to the BJP, the local unit has been asked to ensure its visibility when the Gandhi scion arrives.
The target is to gather more than 1,000 people at the airport. Each office-bearer has been asked to bring around 25 people. With the race on for the post of party president, the contenders are expected to make efforts to outdo each other to show their support, although it is not certain if city Congress leaders would be able to get anywhere near Rahul Gandhi.
President of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee B B Bahl, who held a meeting to discuss arrangements, said, “We will welcome Rahul Gandhi, who is arriving on a commercial flight. Party leaders have been asked to ensure that members of the local unit are present there to welcome him. There is no meeting of the Chandigarh unit scheduled with him.” Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address members of National Students Union of India at Panjab University and thereafter hold a meeting with members of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Congress.
The city unit of the Congress is at present reeling under the loss of some leaders due to defection to BJP. While former Mayor Raj Bala Malik joined BJP a few months back, another councillor Sat Prakash Aggarwal left the Congress last week. As a result, the party is now in minority in the Municipal Corporation. There is speculation that two more councillors may jump the boat. Besides, questions have been raised on the functioning of senior party leaders after the loss in the Lok Sabha election. After many years, voices of dissent have been heard in the party.