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Biggies set Odisha dates

- Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Modi to visit state in February

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 31: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi will visit the state in the second week of February to kick-start the party’s campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

On the other hand, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will also address a rally in the city on February 11.

“Rahul will be on a two-day tour of the state from February 9. His visit will be followed by that of the Congress president,” said Congress leader Bhupinder Singh.

Congress MP Bhakta Charan Das said: “We are doing our best to ensure that we capture at least 12 of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats. The visit of the two leaders will give a fillip to our campaign. Soniaji will address a rally in Kalahandi.”

Das, who spearheaded the Lanjigarh movement that led to cancellation of Niyamgiri hills mining, represents Kalahandi district in the Lok Sabha.

Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress has six and the BJD, 14. The CPI, BJD’s poll partner, has one seat.

Rahul will address meetings at Berhampur, Bissham Cuttack, Talcher, Khariar and Salepur. Congress sources said the party would declare the names of all its Lok Sabha candidates before Rahul and Sonia’s visit.

The state Congress would like the six sitting MPs to be retained. However, Singh is interested to contest from Kalahandi in the place of Bhakta Charan Das. Singh said: “ I want to contest for the Lok Sabha. But whatever the party decides, I will abide by it.”

The BJP, on the other hand, is sparing no efforts to use Modi’s visit to galvanise its workers.

The BJP today started collecting funds for the meeting. BJP spokesperson Samir Mohanty said: “We have introduced Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 coupons and asking people to buy them..”

However, the BJD vice-president Kalpataru Das said the visit of the national leaders would have no impact on his party’s poll prospects. “The people of Odisha already know the characters of both the Congress and the BJP. No one can match the popularity of Naveen Patnaik.”


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