Sonia to launch Congress campaign from Karnataka Monday

March 23rd, 2009 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Davangere (Karnataka), March 23 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi is launching her party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections from Davangere town in Karnataka later Monday.
“Davangere, which is centrally located in the state, is significant for us, as it was from here that Sonia Gandhi launched the party’s campaign for 1999 state assembly elections, resulting in our victory and return to power. We consider it a good omen,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president R.V. Deshpande told IANS here.

The rally has been christened Bharat Nirman, the same name as one of the flagship programmes initiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2005-06.

“We are expecting over 500,000 people from all over the state in the rally where the policies and programmes of the UPA government will be showcased. As Bharat Nirman is about building rural infrastructure, its achievements will be highlighted to convince the people to decisively vote for our party,” Deshpande said.

The Congress returned to power in the state after launching a similar campaign from Davangere, 250 km from Bangalore, for the 1989 assembly elections under the leadership of Veerandra Patil.

Sonia Gandhi also emerged victorious in the 1999 elections from the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency in north Karnataka, defeating Sushma Swaraj of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The Congress considers ‘9′ a luck number as launching its poll campaign in 1989 and subsequently in 1999 brought the party to power at the state level. Its leaders are betting that a similar feat in 2009 will help the party to do an encore in this elections,” Nazeer Sait, a long-time local political observer, told IANS.

Congress general secretary in charge of party affairs in Karnataka Ghulam Nabi Azad, Deshpande, opposition leader in the state legislative assembly Mallikarjun Kharge, former chief ministers S.M. Krishna, Dharam Singh, Veerappa Moily and S. Bangarappa, who returned to the party recently, will participate in the rally.

Strict enforcement of the model code of conduct has prevented the party from putting up banners, posters, buntings and cutouts of its leaders anywhere in the town except at Bapuji MBA grounds, venue of the rally.

According to party sources, about 1,000 buses have been hired to ferry people from several towns and villages in the region.

The district authorities have made tight security arrangements.

Situated in the heart of Malnad (hill region), Davangere was until recently known as the ‘Manchester of Karnataka’, as it was a textile hub with the largest number of cotton mills in the state.

Stiff competition from other textile hubs across the country, failure to keep pace with modernisation and lack of fresh investments led to many mill being shut down over the years.

“Most of the mills were shut, their machinery sold off as scrap and their sites have been converted for commercial and residential activities. About 50,000 people were forced to seek alternative jobs,” Sait recalled.

With many academic institutions and professional colleges mushrooming in and around the town over the years, Davangere has emerged as a major destination for education from “KG to PG” (kindergarten to postgraduation).

Interestingly, a majority of the institutes are owned and run by political leaders from the region, including Congress veteran and former Lok Sabha member Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who is organising the rally.

Once a Congress stronghold, the Davangere Lok Sabha seat is now largely in the hands of the BJP - in the 2008 assembly elections, it won of six of the eight assembly constituencies that make up the Lok Sabha seat.

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