The Congress is planning to launch its campaign for the 2017 Assembly elections from Allahabad in July through a grand public meeting to be addressed by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, during which the party will invoke the Nehru-Gandhi family’s connection with Allahabad.
The party was earlier planning to hold this programme in November this year to mark former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s 100th birth anniversary in Allahabad, the birth place of both Indira as well as her father and country’s first PM, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Sources said plans were changed after the party realised that November would be too close to the elections for Congress to be able to make an impact.
The decision to push things fast comes after the BJP decided to hold its National Executive Meet in Allahabad on June 12-13 followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting there, although senior party leaders denied any connection.
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“Allahabad is going to be bigger than anyone expects. BJP can do as many executive meetings they want there but what Congress has in store for them would change everything,” said a senior party leader who is associated with the planning of the event.
He further said while Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary would also be celebrated in Allahabad in November, it would be too late to consider the event as launch of the party’s election campaign.
Ahead of the Allahabad programme, the party leadership has been asked to identify at least one lakh Congress workers from all across the state and call at least 50,000 of them to Lucknow, where Rahul Gandhi would address a a workers’ meet in the third week of June. Sources said that the Lucknow event would allow the party to assess the strength of its newly formed army of workers. Earlier, the party was planning to call around 35,000 workers for the event, but Rahul had asked for a list of at least one lakh verified workers before finalising the Lucknow meet, sources added.
“No dates have been finalised for the Allahabad programme yet, which would mark the beginning of the party’s campaign in UP. The Lucknow workers’ meet would act as a preliminary exercise towards it,” said the party leader.
It may be mentioned that Congress president Sonia Gandhi frequently visited Swaraj Bhawan, ancestral home of Nehru family in Allahabad. During these visits, which were termed by the party as “personal visits”, she would meet local leaders, who had also demanded the Congress to start its poll campaign from Allahabad. It would also give the Congress a platform to target the Centre over removing names of Indira and Nehru from central government schemes, by invoking both the leaders from their “homeland”.