All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Rahul Gandhi arrived in the district town of Malda on the border with Bangladesh to campaign for two candidates from the Khan Chowdhury family for the Lok Sabha elections.
The venue of Gandhi’s rally, the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Vidyamandir Kendra Grounds, has a special significance for his family, as both his grandmother and father, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, addressed rallies at the ground.
In 1971, before then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent the Indian army marching into then East Pakistan, she announced it here in this town. The rally was attended by Siddhartha Shankar Ray, then minister in charge of Bengal affairs, and ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury, then a local star in the Congress.
“In 1976, Sanjay Gandhi was invited to Malda by Ghani Khan Chowdhury,” recalled Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury, Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s brother. Rajiv Gandhi also developed a special fondness for Malda. After Ghani Khan Chowdhury became Union Minister for Programme Implementation in 1980, he invited Rajiv to Malda. And in 1982, Rajiv did his first road show in this town.
In 1982, Ghani Khan Chowdhury became the Railways Minister and in 1984, a few months before Indira Gandhi’s assassination, AICC general secretary Rajiv Gandhi visited Malda with his wife Sonia Gandhi.
“There is no doubt that my brother shared terrific relations with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv, in 1984, wanted my brother to become AICC general secretary,” said Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury.
After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Sonia visited Malda in 1998 as AICC president when the district was hit by a terrible flood. “She stayed and supervised rescue operations and flood control management,” said Mausam Benazir Noor, Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s niece.
Sonia appointed Ghani Khan Chowdhury as the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief in 1998. Even after his death in April 2006, the ties between the Gandhis and the successors of Ghani Khan were intact.
Sonia gave Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha by-poll from Malda. She also campaigned for him. In 2008, when Ghani’s sister and legislator Ruby Noor died, Sonia gave a ticket to her daughter Mausam Benazir Noor to contest the by-poll from Shujapur.
In 2009 general elections, the Khan Chowdhury family bagged tickets for both North and South Malda. Rahul came to campaign for them on Friday and Sonia Gandhi will come on April 27.