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Sonia date for campaign in north
- Congress president to hold rallies in Malda and Raiganj on April 22

Calcutta, April 11: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to address two meetings in Malda and Raiganj on April 22, two days before the second phase of polling in Bengal involving six Lok Sabha constituencies.

“The Congress president will visit Malda and Raiganj on April 22 to campaign for party nominees,” AICC secretary Manish Chattarath, who oversees campaign schedules for high-profile party leaders, confirmed this evening from Delhi.

Besides Malda North and South, and Raiganj, polling will take place in Balurghat, Jangipur and Murshidabad seats on April 24.

Former state Congress president Manas Bhuniya, who is contesting the Ghatal Lok Sabha seat, met Sonia at the Kalaikunda airstrip near Kharagpur where she made a halt for about 15 minutes before leaving for Baleswar in Odisha in a helicopter this afternoon for campaigning.

Bhuniya was accompanied by a host of Congress leaders, including Anita Hansda and Bimal Raj, party nominees for the Jhargram and Midnapore seats.

“We requested Soniaji to campaign for the party nominees in other parts of Bengal,” Bhuniya said after meeting the Congress vice-president. “She promised me she would see to it that Midnapore is included in her itinerary next time.”

Bhuniya presented a angavastra to the Congress president, while Anita gifted a sari.

“Soniaji is very happy with the sari I presented to her,” said candidate Anita.

Sonia landed at the Kalaikunda airstrip around 1.40pm in a white chartered flight and left for Baleswar for a campaign meeting in a chopper around 1.55pm. She returned to the airstrip around 5.10pm and left for Delhi.

Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said this evening that they had already requested the high command to ensure Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Bengal. “We are expecting Rahulji’s itinerary for Bengal by the month-end,” he said.

Congress sources said tonight that party managers were banking on campaign meetings of Sonia and Rahul to rejuvenate the beleaguered organisation ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

“Our low-key campaign is no match for high-octane campaigns of the ruling Trinamul, BJP and the Left. In fact, there is a sense of resentment among a section of party candidates because of lack of proper campaign,” admitted a state Congress general secretary.