Indian Express

On Sunday, Rahul returns to ground where few people turned up last time

Senior Congress leaders admitted that standards have been set by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate's rally in Seelampur last week. Tweet This
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With people steadily streaming out of the venue, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had been forced to plead with the crowd to “at least listen to Rahulji before leaving”. With people steadily streaming out of the venue, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had been forced to plead with the crowd to “at least listen to Rahulji before leaving”.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s first rally in the capital, scheduled to be held on April 6, isn’t merely about the Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from the usual objectives of garnering support, making electoral promises and boosting morale, this rally at Ambedkar Nagar is more about ‘a matter of pride’ for the Congress party.

For, it is going to be held at the same venue, where prior to the Delhi Assembly elections, poor turnout had left the party fumbling for ‘explanations’ on a chilly Sunday.

With people steadily streaming out of the venue, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had been forced to plead with the crowd to “at least listen to Rahulji before leaving”.

Rahul, that day, had spoken for less than seven minutes. The less-than-enthusiastic response had, in many ways, been the first bleak prophecy for the Congress’s humbling defeat in Delhi.

It is learnt that the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) wrote to the All India Congress Committee (AICC), stressing upon the need for a rally at the same venue this time around.

Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely said the reason for the choice of venue was “to further consolidate people’s faith in the Congress” and that this time, nothing could go wrong.

“It will be a historic event and preparations are underway,” he said, before adding that the rising mercury could discourage crowds.
But the main task for the Delhi Congress unit still remains ensuring a good turnout.

Senior Congress leaders admitted that the standards have been set by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in Seelampur last week.

Keeping this in mind, the Delhi unit has been, over the past one month, been absorbing candidates — both independent and belonging to other parties — into its fold in a bid to accumulate support.

“More than 20 people belonging to different parties have joined the Congress, to fight against communal forces. The additional support they will bring to the rally will make a difference,” a senior Congress leader said.

The choice of venue is also critical in their bid to consolidate their traditional votebank.

“Ambedkar Nagar has large Dalit settlements, Muslim pockets, slums and unauthorised colonies,” Lovely said — a stark reminder about the work at hand, considering that the Congress lost the Assembly segment here for the first time in 20 years last December.

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