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dna special: Narendra Modi's date with Mumbai unsettles Congress

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 - 7:14am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Sonia, Rahul to counter BJP poster boy with massive rally in Jan.

With the BJP holding a massive rally to be addressed by its prime ministerial nominee and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai this weekend, the Congress is planning to get party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the city to launch its campaign for the Lok Sabha polls with a public meeting.

While the BJP claims that lakhs will attend Modi’s ‘Maha Garjana’ rally on Sunday, the Congress says it can ensure a turnout that is “two times more”.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Shiv Sena and BJP lost all six seats in Mumbai, largely due to the presence of the Raj Thackeray-led MNS in the fray. The saffron alliance, which has tied up with Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale’s Republican Party of India (RPI-A) is trying to recover lost ground and corner a major share of Maharashtra’s 48 seats to fulfill its ambition of coming to power at the Centre.

“We are planning a huge rally in January... We are going to put up a big show,” Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) chief Janardhan Chandurkar told dna. The Congress may hold the rally either in the Bandra-Kurla Complex or the Somaiya grounds in Sion or the Andheri Sports Complex.

“For Soniaji’s rally, we will muster support from within the cadre... thousands of Congress workers are getting mobilised,” said Chandurkar. “We will organise a rally which will be larger than that of Modi’s. The difference between Modi’s rally and ours will be that while people will be brought from outside Mumbai for his public meeting, we will have local people,” he claimed.

Dismissing claims of a pro-Modi wave in the middle class, Chandurkar claimed that the BJP was trying to give undue credit to Modi for its success in the assembly polls in four states. “Mumbai is cosmopolitan and educated... I am sure that Mumbai will vote for the Congress,” he said.

Chandurkar added that to create the political atmosphere for this rally, they were planning public meetings to reach out to Muslims and Dalits. A symbolic rally to commemorate the Congress foundation day on December 28 will be held either at the Bhaidas Hall or Ravindra Natya Mandir or the Yashwantrao Chavan Prathisthan. The Bombay high court had refused to grant permission to the Congress to use Shivaji Park to host the foundation day celebrations.

In addition, the Mumbai Congress has held 36 block-level rallies in Mumbai from November 15 to December 15 “to create the atmosphere” for the January rally, Chandurkar added. The Mumbai Congress has divided the city into 86 blocks.

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The rally is scheduled to be held at Bandra-Kurla Complex on Sunday (December 22). For the rally as many as 70,000 people are expected to come to assemble in the city from outside the city.

The party has also organised 18,000 buses to bring people from across the state. The rally will also be addressed by the party’s national president Rajnath Singh, former chief Nitin Gadkari besides party leaders Gopinath Munde, Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde among others.

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