With Gujarat CM Narendra Modi stepping up his stinging attacks against the Congress, Sonia Gandhi will formally kick off her party's election campaign in the state with a rally in Rajkot on October 3.
This, according to the state leaders, is the first time since 2002 when Gandhi will address a rally in Gujarat ahead of the announcement of poll schedule. The farmers' rally at Rajkot would also be Gandhi’s first public meeting after the Congress-led UPA government decided to allow FDI in retail, hiked diesel prices and put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.
Congress managers have carefully chosen Rajkot — the fourth largest city in Gujarat — as the venue because it is part of Saurashtra, which is considered a BJP stronghold. The Congress, however, won four of the seven Lok Sabha seats from the region in 2009 polls. It also accounts for 48 assembly seats.
The party seeks to cash in on the farmers anger — they have suffered huge crop losses due to drought in the region — against the Modi government and remind them that it was UPA which announced a debt waiver of Rs. 70,000 crore for them in 2008.
"Our workers are excited about the rally…We expect a huge turnout," Gujarat party chief Arjun Modhwadia told HT.
The Congress also hopes that BJP rebel and Gujarat Parivartan Party founder Keshubhai Patel will dent the prospects of his former party --- given that the Patel community dominates the Saurashtra region. Patel, a known Modi baiter, is expected to field candidates from all the 182 seats.