Mega rally in Nagpur today shows Maha central to Cong’s poll agenda | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Mega rally in Nagpur today shows Maha central to Cong’s poll agenda

Dec 28, 2023 06:30 AM IST

arlier in the day, Congress announced that Rahul Gandhi would commence the second leg of Bharat Jodo Yatra, titled Bharat Nyay Yatra, from Manipur on January 14. The yatra is slated to culminate in Mumbai on March 20

NAGPUR/Mumbai: The Congress is all set to launch its 2024 Lok Sabha poll campaign from Nagpur on Thursday by holding a rally to mark its 139th foundation day. The rally will feature Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, party president Mallikarjun Kharge, all Congress chief ministers, state party chiefs and senior leaders. It will be held on the outskirts of Nagpur and is expected to be attended by about two lakh workers, said state Congress leaders.

Nagpur: Maharashtra Congress in-charge Ramesh Chennithala with Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole and senior leaders inspect the preparation at the venue on the eve of the party's "Hai Tayyar Hum" mega rally, in Nagpur, Wednesday, Dec 27, 2023. (PTI Photo) (PTI12_27_2023_000382B) (PTI)
Nagpur: Maharashtra Congress in-charge Ramesh Chennithala with Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole and senior leaders inspect the preparation at the venue on the eve of the party's "Hai Tayyar Hum" mega rally, in Nagpur, Wednesday, Dec 27, 2023. (PTI Photo) (PTI12_27_2023_000382B) (PTI)

Earlier in the day, Congress announced that Rahul Gandhi would commence the second leg of Bharat Jodo Yatra, titled Bharat Nyay Yatra, from Manipur on January 14. The yatra is slated to culminate in Mumbai on March 20.

The choice of two places in Maharashtra is aimed at creating a buzz in the state because the Hindi belt is not promising in terms of support to the party, said state Congress leaders.

“The recent assembly poll results showed that the BJP is far ahead of us in winning over the electorate. Things could become more difficult in the Hindi-speaking belt and some other areas once the Ram temple in Ayodhya is inaugurated, as the BJP will derive political mileage out of it. It is imperative that we win a significant number of seats in other states, especially in Maharashtra,” said a former state Congress chief, adding that the party expected to do well in the southern states.

The choice of Nagpur as the venue for Thursday’s rally reflects the Congress’s intention to mount a challenge against BJP at the headquarters of its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

“With this rally, we want to send a strong message to the BJP-led Narendra Modi government. We will give a strong reply to the BJP on Sangh turf,” said senior Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan, on the sidelines of a visit to Azad Maidan near Dighori naka, the venue of Thursday’s rally. Chavan, who was accompanied by Patole, Wadettiwar and other senior leaders, said the party had coined the slogan “Hai Tayyar Hum” (We are ready) to make its intentions clear.

The rally in Nagpur will also help Congress mobilise its cadre and forge connections with people in the Vidarbha region, said a party leader from Vidarbha. Though the region’s electorate is split between Congress and BJP, the former fared poorly in last two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, winning just two and one seats, respectively. However, two top leaders of the Congress – state president Nana Patole and leader of opposition in the assembly Vijay Wadettiwar – hail from the region. Both are from Other Backward Classes (OBC), who comprise a significant chunk of the region’s population, and whose support is crucial for the Congress to do well in the region.

Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats, the second highest in India after Uttar Pradesh, and state Congress leaders are hoping that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising Congress, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) and Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar faction) will win 25-30 of them.

“Among the three parties, we will be in a position to win more seats. We have a strong base in Vidarbha and significant presence in the western Maharashtra and Marathawada regions as well as the tribal belt of north Maharashtra. We are hoping to win 15-20 seats and our allies could win up to 10 seats,” said a senior party leader. A recent survey by ABP News-C Voter indicated the MVA would win up to 29 seats in the state if elections were held now.

Thursday’s rally will mark the first occasion when the three Gandhis — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi – will be seen together on one stage in Maharashtra. All prominent party leaders, MPs and nearly 300 out of its 600 MLAs are likely to attend the event.

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