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Rahul Gandhi’s Mandsaur farmers rally to kickstart Congress’ MP election campaign

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s Mandsaur rally is a clear indication that farm distress will be one of the party’s main poll planks in the Madhya Pradesh assembly election.

Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 Updated: Jun 05, 2018 22:14 IST
Punya Priya Mitra
Punya Priya Mitra
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Rahul Gandhi,Mandsaur,Congress
Congress President Rahul Gandhi greets his supporters during an election campaign rally ahead of Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 in Bengaluru.(PTI File Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi will hold a rally in Piplya Mandi town near Mandsaur on Wednesday afternoon to honour six farmers killed in police firing last June, a move that positions farm distress as one of the party’s main poll planks in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh assembly election.

Madhya Pradesh will go to the polls along with two other BJP-ruled states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – in the latter half of the year.

The Piplya Mandi rally is expected to kickstart the Congress’s election campaign in the state, where the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has been on the backfoot over the deaths of the farmers in Mandsaur on June 6 last year. The Congress hopes to ride farmer discontent and dislodge the BJP in a state that the latter has ruled since 2003.

The Congress has witnessed back-to-back victories in four assembly bypolls held through 2017-18, and a better-than-expected showing in the civic body elections. The BJP lost Ater, Chhitrakoot, Mungaoli and Kolaras constituencies despite the chief minister himself coming out to campaign with his cabinet colleagues. The Congress is also drawing strength from its success in Karnataka, where the party cobbled together a coalition government along with the Janata Dal (Secular) despite the BJP having the highest number of seats, and the recent bypoll triumphs in Uttar Pradesh and other states.

As this is newly inducted state Congress president Kamal Nath’s first major event, the party is leaving no stone unturned to ensure its success. Posters of Rahul Gandhi and top state leaders have come up everywhere and, according to Congress leader Rajendra Bharti, giant coolers and water-spray systems are being installed at the venue to beat the heat. Two truckloads of soft drinks, buttermilk and water pouches will also be stationed at the venue for those attending the rally.

Bharti said the rally will showcase the unity within the Congress. Leaders including Kamal Nath, campaign panel chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia, leader of the opposition in the state assembly Ajay Singh and senior leader Digvijaya Singh, are expected to attend the event, which will begin around 1 pm.

Security has been tightened across the town in view of the rally as well as the ongoing 10-day farmers’ strike in the state. The BJP is keeping a close watch on the event, especially its turnout.

State BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal criticised the Congress for “playing politics” over farmers’ deaths. “Rahul Gandhi is not serious about farmers. His party never addressed their problems when it was in power. Moreover, while the Congress was responsible for the death of 17 farmers in the Multai police firing (in 1998), neither Rahul nor any other Congress president ever went to attend their death anniversary,” he said.

First Published: Jun 05, 2018 22:09 IST