Rahul Gandhi arrives in Chhattisgarh on his maiden visit on Friday, amid controversy that the state government will prevent him from visiting Dantewada — the district worst affected by Naxalite violence — and interacting with members of the Salwa Judum, the vigilante “people’s army” the state has raised to counter the Naxalite threat.
The Raman Singh government has reportedly expressed its inability to provide foolproof security to Rahul in Dantewada. “It seems that the ruling BJP government does not wish Rahul to visit the region,” said Charandas Mahant, state PCC president.
In Delhi, however, Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari was unwilling to pursue the matter. “The final call in such cases is always taken by the Special Protection Group,” he said. It was learnt that senior state police officials too have suggested that Rahul avoid Dantewada for security reasons.
The AICC general secretary’s whirlwind tour includes visits to Sarguja, Korba and Koriya districts in the morning. In the evening, he will fly to the tribal dominated Jagdalpur and Kanker districts in the south. He leaves for Mandla (Madhya Pradesh) on Saturday.
Although a detailed itinerary has not been revealed for security reasons, it is learnt Rahul will meet folk artists, students and NGOs in the tribal dominated Bastar region.
With elections due later this year, the Congress badly needs to strengthen its base in the tribal areas, where it won only nine of the 34 seats in the last poll.
Rahul’s visit is also expected to boost the morale of the state Congress unit, which has been rife with factionalism in the past few years and regular electoral losses. “With Rahul’s visit, the party definitely looks forward to strengthen its base before the assembly election,” said Ramesh Varlyani, Congress spokesman.