Congress President Sonia Gandhi seems to be picking on Mumbai to celebrate the party’s Foundation Day on December 28.
Three years after Sonia Gandhi used her public meeting at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park on December 27 and her press conference on December 28 to set the stage for the formation of a Congress-led alliance at the Centre, the Congress president will be back in Mumbai to address a rally from the venue.
Though she gave the city, where the Congress was born, a miss in December 2004, she was present in Mumbai on the party’s Foundation Day in 2005 to address a rally---though not at Shivaji Park---and hand over the keys of the houses constructed for slum dwellers.
The Congress president will once again be in Mumbai this year on December 28 for the party’s 121st Foundation Day celebrations. She will address a rally at the sprawling Shivaji Park where she is likely to give to the people a report card of the achievements of the UPA government which is mid-way through its five year term.
Only this time, the meeting will be held in the backdrop of the decision that the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) would separately contest the civic polls which, given their significance, are often dubbed as a ``mini assembly election’’
Though a section in the Maharashtra Congress is keen on a tie-up with the NCP to prevent fragmentation of votes, the central leadership wants the state unit to the local body polls to test its strength.
This would give the party enough time to take corrective steps, consolidate itself and prepare for the 2009 assembly polls where the Congress’ main aim is to come to power on its own.
In fact, the Mumbai rally is expected be part of the five public meetings Sonia would address in the next few weeks to galvanise the cadres in the state where the Congress and the NCP are jostling with each other to occupy the space that may fall vacant because of the disarray in the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party camps.
The first of these meetings took place last week in Latur, the turf of Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The dates of the other three rallies have not yet been fixed. But one each is slotted in Vidarbha (likely to be held in Nagpur), Western Maharashtra and North Maharashtra.
The Nagpur rally is expected to help the party repair the damage done to its image by the spate of farmers’ suicides in the Vidarbha region.
The Centre announced a relief package for the distressed farmers and the Congress president called a meeting of Congress chief ministers at Nainital in September to discuss the problems faced by agriculturalists.
The state unit of the Congress hopes to capitalise from Sonia’s visits. It is presently competing with the NCP in trying to gain from the Shiv Sena split, the BJP-Sena differences and the impact of Pramod Mahajan’s death on the BJP.