S. Rajendran

There will only be one political meeting in Bangalore on

March 29

Bangalore: The five-day visit to the State by AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi beginning on Tuesday is expected to give a new thrust to the Congress in the State. The State unit of the party has been facing a crisis of sorts over the past month with some senior Congress leaders opposing the return of the former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna to State politics. The decision of the party high command to appoint AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka, Prithiviraj Chavan, as the overall chairman of all the election-related committees served to clear the crisis.

All the senior State Congress leaders have been assigned work for the five-day programme in a spirit of collective leadership.

KPCC president M. Mallikarjun Kharge has personally checked the arrangements at all places to be visited by the Congress leader.

Mr. Gandhi will be the first top party leader to visit the State after the Election Commission’s announcement of polls in May. His visit, however, had been planned nearly two months ago.

The State tour by Mr. Gandhi is similar to the one undertaken in 1982 by his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, when he was inducted into the Congress as general secretary. The 1982 tour was primarily organised to enable Rajiv Gandhi have a feel of the ground realities. Mr. Rahul Gandhi is now here on a similar mission.

The late K.T. Rathod was the then KPCC president and Rajiv Gandhi had to cover the length and breadth of the State by road. By contrast, Mr. Rahul Gandhi would travel by helicopter to certain areas.

KPCC general secretary Prakash Rathod told The Hindu that the differences (if any) among the State leaders had been buried, thanks to Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s visit. Enthusiasm in the party rank and file is high. It is the security threat which has prompted the Congress to opt for air travel to some regions, but his visit has been restricted to 10 of the 29 districts.

By and large, most of the tour programme has been kept confidential for security reasons. Unlike Rajiv Gandhi who came in a mammoth procession from the HAL airport to the KPCC office (then in Sadashivanagar) during his maiden visit after taking charge as party general secretary, only 20 partymen have been permitted to receive Mr. Rahul Gandhi at the airport.

President of the Karnataka Pradesh Youth Congress Committee Krishna Byre Gowda, who has played a key role in finalising the nitty-gritty of the programme, said that there would only be one political meeting at Hebbal in Bangalore on March 29.