Rahul Gandhi arrives in Sambalpur

Sambalpur: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi arrived in Sambalpur Monday to kick off his 2-day visit to Odisha to assess the ground situation by interacting with the party’s functionaries at the district, block and panchayat level. Summing up the purpose of Rahul’s visit, AICC in-charge Jagdish Tytler said, “Rahulji will exchange ideas with those party leaders who cannot come to Delhi to express their views on how to strengthen the party”.
 
Inclement weather delayed Rahul’s arrival in Sambalpur by three hours, but it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the party leaders. Congress leaders eagerly waited to hear from the party’s heir apparent. Rahul Gandhi is perceived as the last hope to usher in a turnaround in the party’s fortunes in Odisha.
 
The objective of Rahul Gandhi’s visit appears to be two-fold. His foremost priority is to cement the internal cracks within the Odisha unit and dismantle the hurdles hindering internal cohesion. The second task is to set the political goals of the Congress vis-à-vis the BJD in Odisha. Should the party be aggressive to nail the BJD or should the party chisel a middle path so that the doors are kept open to do business with a secular party after 2014 polls? In the run-up-to the 2014 polls, Rahul Gandhi will set the tone for party members in Odisha.
 
The Congress in Odisha has lost three consecutive Assembly elections since 2000 and it desperately wants not to suffer another humiliating loss on the trot. Rahul Gandhi has toured the state twice since 2009. In August 2010, the Gandhi scion visited Lanjigarh two days after the Ministry of Environment and Forest rejected Stage II forest clearance for Niyamgiri bauxite mining project. He told the tribals residing in Niyamgiri hills that he would serve as their soldier in Delhi.
 
The Vedanta alumina refinery is now closed as there is no assured supply of bauxite. Rahul subsequently visited Odisha in 2011 when he lambasted the state government for the tardy progress of many flagship programmes of the UPA Government like MGNREGS while addressing a rally in Bhubaneswar.
 
Much water has flown through Mahanadi since Rahul’s visit in 2011. The UPA has been rocked by a slew of scams and scandals. Congress leaders have fired salvoes at Naveen Patnaik on the coal allotment recommendations.  The face-off between the BJD and Congress has intensified. The Congress Vice President is expected to unveil strategy on how to fend off criticisms hurled against the UPA and how to keep the BJD at bay.