Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra for the last 37 days, is set to address a public rally in Ballari on Saturday, before crossing Karnataka border to continue the walk in Andhra Pradesh. The constituency from which his mother and AICC president Sonia Gandhi won the Lok Sabha election in 1999 will be the venue for the only big public rally in the State as part of the yatra.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar said Ballari was a natural choice since it was on arrival here that the yatra completes 1,000 km of the total 3,570-km length. The yatra was launched in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, on September 7.
Mysuru could not be
According to sources, the party initially wanted to hold a rally in Mysuru too, but that could not be held because Dasara celebrations were then in full swing. Ballari then became a natural choice for two reasons — one, it is the only big city on the yatra route after Mysuru, and two, its association with Ms. Gandhi.
Ms. Gandhi had entered electoral politics by contesting from Congress stronghold Ballari as well as Gandhi family bastion Amethi in the 1999 elections. With BJP firebrand and the then Delhi Chief Minister Sushma Swaraj jumping into the fray in Ballari with a slogan of “Videshi Bahu Vs. Swadeshi Bheti”, the election was fiercely fought. Ms. Gandhi won both seats and retained Amethi.
Reclaiming the once-stronghold
Congress leaders expect a turnout of around three lakh people from Ballari and surrounding districts. It appears also to be an attempt to reclaim what was once the party’s stronghold, until the arrival of mining barons changed the political scenario. The selection of Ballari for the mega event was made considering its strategic importance in the electoral politics in the days to come.
The yatra entered Ballari district around 4 p.m. on Friday and the participants stayed near the Halakundi Math. The yatra will start at 6.30 a.m. on Saturday and cover a 7-km stretch to reach Kamma Bhavan in Ballari city by 10 a.m. The public event starts at 1.30 p.m. at the Municipal High School ground.
Mr. Shivakumar, KPCC working president Eshwar Khandre, party leaders M.B. Patil, L. Hanumanthaiah, Ugrappa, Nasir Hussein, Anil Lad, Diwakar Babu, and others visited the venue and took stock of the preparations on Friday evening.
Break for AICC president election
On Sunday, the Bharat Jodo Yatra will leave Ballari in the morning and exit Karnataka to halt at Chatragudi Hanuman temple in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. The participants will take a break on Monday — the day of polling for the AICC president post — to allow the voters to exercise their franchise. KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar said a polling booth would be established at the yatra camp for the voters, including Rahul Gandhi.