Congress president Sonia Gandhi will inaugurate the centenary and Dasara (Dussehra) celebrations of the renowned Kudroli Gokarnanatheshwara temple at Mangalore in Karnataka on Thursday.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by social reformer Narayana Guru in 1912 for Billavas, also known as Idigas, who were considered untouchables. Former PM Rajiv Gandhi had inaugurated the renovated temple in February 1991.
Gandhi's visit to Karnataka—second in six months — is seen as an attempt to woo the backward caste. During her last visit to the state on April 29, she attended the 105th birthday celebrations of Swami Shivakumara of Siddaganga math, an influential Lingayat math.
Lingayats, who constitute 17% of the state's 65 million population, had moved away from the Congress in 1990, when the party unceremoniously removed Veerendra Patil, a top leader from the community, as chief minister in less than a year.
Gandhi will also address party workers in Mangalore. The coastal belt is considered to be a BJP-stronghold.
With assembly elections a few months away, Gandhi is expected to give a strong message to the faction-ridden state leaders at the convention — to close ranks and work towards bringing the party back to power.
Ahead of the crucial polls, the ruling BJP is in disarray following former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa's threat to form his own party next month.
Though too a divided house, the Congress is smelling blood over developments in the ruling camp. A cold war is going on between state chief G Parameshwara and leader of the opposition in assembly Siddaramaiah.