Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will on April 30 jointly address a rally in Uttar Pradesh for the first time.
The two leaders are rarely seen making joint appearances: the only time they came together was at Amritsar during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This time, they will take the stage at Banda in Bundelkhand — a neglected region brought to the forefront of national politics by Gandhi after his April 2009 visit.
His efforts then pushed the UPA government to announce a special package of R7,266 crore in November 2009 for the drought mitigation strategy and integrated development of the region spread over 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh besides an allocation of Rs1,200 crore in the 2010-11 budget.
The Congress virtually has no presence in the region. The Banda rally, Congress leaders say, would be a milestone in what is being dubbed Gandhi’s Mission UP 2012 — a task to wrest power in ’s largest state, where elections are due next year.
After being voted out of power in UP in 1989, the Congress has been struggling hard to regain power during the past two decades. The party has already begun preparations for the elections and is expected to announce names by May 31.
The Banda rally will again bring about a face off between Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and UP chief minister Mayawati. The two leaders have been engaged in war of words in the past over issues such as use of central funds and law and order besides development in Bundelkhand despite the BSP supporting the Congress-led UPA government from outside.
“Gandhi’s special interest in Bundelkhand has also given a massive push to the membership drive of the Youth Congress. The response he is receiving from women is enormous. We have been forced to extend the drive in the region till May 7,” a YC leader said.