Rahul to launch party’s poll campaign in Kerala today - GulfToday

Rahul to launch party’s poll campaign in Kerala today


The photograph released on Tuesday shows a Congress party rally in Gandhinagar in the Indian state of Gujarat. Agence France-Presse

By Ashraf Padanna / Agencies

trivandrum: Congress party president Rahul Gandhi arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day visit after addressing a joint rally with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader MK Stalin in the neighbouring district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.

He’ll formally launch the party’s poll campaign in Kerala on Thursday when he will address a massive rally of workers in the northern city of Kozhikode though the party is still pondering over probable candidates.

Kerala votes on April 23 in the staggered elections spread over two months across the nation to form the next Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament.

After reaching here, Gandhi boarded a special flight to Kochi and proceeded to Thrissur where he would spend the night and address the “fishermen’s parliament” Thursday morning.

Later, he would fly to Kannur, where he would meet the family of slain Youth Congress leader Shuhaib at the airport and proceed to Kasaragod to visit homes of Sharath Lal and Kripesh, young workers killed last month by political opponents.

He would address Jana Maha Rally or grand people’s rally in Kozhikode city at 4pm. Party workers from six northern districts will gather on the beach where they are raising a huge tent.

He is also likely to review election preparedness and discuss with leaders on the candidates for 16 of the 20 constituencies in the state where the party candidates will be in the fray leaving four to allies.

Senior leader Dr Shashi Tharoor is defending his seat in the state capital here while K Sudhakaran, the party’s working president, hit the campaign trail in his home turf of Kannur on Thursday without waiting for a formal announcement.

In Kozhikode, the sitting lawmaker MK Raghavan is in the fray in Kozhikode and ET Mohammed Basheer and PK Kunhalikutty, the incumbents from its key ally Indian Union Muslim League, are defending Ponnani and Malappuram.

Teekaram Meena, the state’s chief electoral officer, meanwhile, said the election authorities were taking stringent measures against the criminalisation of politics this time. The candidates facing criminal charges need to publish them in a prominent local television and newspaper three times from the date of filing nominations and the voting prominently.

“They have to give details of all the criminal cases which they are facing right now irrespective of conviction,” he told reporters after a meeting of political parties he convened here.

“I told them very clearly that violation of this would attract disqualification, though some may feel uncomfortable. It’s part of the electoral reforms to prevent criminals from entering these bodies.” He reiterated his earlier statement that “no appeal invoking caste and communal feelings of the electors should be made” and that “they should not create mutual hatred.” He made it clear that under no circumstances should votes be solicited in the name of the Sabarimala temple, where the ruling communists had a fight with the opposition parties over allowing women of menstruating age there.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had moved the Election Commission of India, against the ban on Sabarimala as a campaign plank. “It’s because it has a religious connotation,” said Meena. “They have no option but to comply with the rules.” He, however, added that there’s no restriction on discussing the issue during the campaigning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other politicians, sportspersons, actors, business leaders to encourage maximum voter engagement in 2019 general elections in April-May.

“I appeal to Rahul Gandhi, (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata (Banerjee), (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar, (BSP supremo) Mayawati, (SP chief) Akhilesh Yadav, (RJD leader) Tejashwi Yadav and (DMK chief) M.K. Stalin to encourage increased voter participation in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. A high turnout augurs well for our democratic fabric,” he tweeted.

He also mentioned sportspersons P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, S..Kidambi; actors Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, business leaders Ratan Tata, Anand Mahindra to encourage more voting in polls.