The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tribal touch to campaign kickoff

Ranchi, Jan.31: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to address one of the largest gathering of tribals here tomorrow.

Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra (VKK), a Sangh parivar affiliate that is celebrating its golden jubilee, claimed that it expected more than 1.5 lakh tribals to converge on the capital.

Vajpayee’s first visit to the state since the creation of Jharkhand is being seen as the informal launch of the party’s poll campaign in the state.

Many will travel by trains or on foot but the VKK has also arranged for some 300 buses to transport them and as many as 2.5 lakh food packets are also being readied for the vanvasis.

The last Vanvasi Sammelan was held in Gumla, approximately 90 km from Ranchi, 15 years ago in 1989, volunteered VKK general secretary, P.D. Sapre.

The Prime Minister’s address assumes significance in view of the imminent general election though VKK office-bearers described it as a coincidence.

The invitation to Vajpayee, they claimed, had been extended six months ago. They are not sure if the Prime Minister will avail of the opportunity to announce sops for the tribals and schemes to benefit them. But they also made it clear that they were hopeful that the Prime Minister would respond in kind to the huge outpouring of affection for him.

The RSS workers, who were getting disillusioned with the BJP leadership, have once again closed ranks to make Vajpayee’s visit a success.

“Though the Prime Minister is coming for the vanvasis, but whatever he says will have an impact on the party’s prospects in the state,” said a BJP leader.

Vajpayee’s visit is also being seen as a shot in the arm for chief minister Arjun Munda, who is facing a tough time with former science and technology minister levelling a slew of charges against him.

The Prime Minister’s special plane is expected to land here at 12.15 pm on what will be his maiden visit to the three-and-a-half-year-old state.

Vajpayee will spend about five hours here before flying to Thiruvananthapuram at 5.35 pm.

From the airport, the Prime Minister will be flown in a helicopter to Dubalia village in Kanke, where he will formally open a 6-km stretch of road laid under the Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana.

Also on the cards is an online upgradation by the Prime Minister of the Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences.

The government has pledged Rs 120 crore to upgrade the medical college, of which Rs 20 crore is meant for construction of the building and Rs 100 crore for equipment.

Till late on Saturday evening, the final minute-by-minute schedule cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office had not landed as anxious officials huddled together, hoping that last-minute changes would not be made.

The Prime Minister’s address here has assumed added significance due to the imminent general election and the VKK has pulled out all the stops to ensure an impressive gathering.

The state government has also hurriedly put together a few programmes for the Prime Minister to inaugurate.

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