Kolkata (PTI): Congress President Sonia Gandhi and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi will hit the campaign trail in the middle of this month in the first phase of West Bengal assembly elections where Congress is contesting in alliance with Trinamool Congress (TMC) against the Left Front.
“Soniaji is expected on April 15 and address three meetings in in Jalpaiguri and Malda districts”, PCC spokesman Omprakash Mishra told PTI in Kolkata yesterday.
He said Rahul Gandhi was expected in North Bengal for campaigning on April 14 and would address four election meetings — one in Malbazar/Chalsa in Jalpaiguri district, the second at Dalkhola in Uttar Dinajpur district, the third at Mothabari and fourth at Harischandrapur, both in Malda district.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would visit the state later this month and would hold a joint election meeting with TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee.
“But the date and the venue of the meeting have not yet been finalised,” Mishra said.
The TMC chief will begin campaigning from April 10 in North Bengal where elections will be held in 54 seats in the first phase on April 18. Banerjee has ruled out the possibility of a joint campaign with Sonia or Rahul in the first phase.
“Our dates don’t match. We can cover more places if we spread out to different areas,” she had said on Wednesday, adding that a joint rally could be held later in south Bengal.
On April 15 when Sonia Gandhi will tour north Bengal, Banerjee will campaign in Murshidabad district in south Bengal. Congress MP from Murshidabad Adhir Chowdhury has fielded his own men as Independent candidates in four seats in the district against TMC nominees defying senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee’s warning to dissidents.
The TMC chief has also hinted that an election rally with Prime Minister was likely if he decided to campaign in Kolkata. Party sources said Banerjee will launch her campaign on April 10 in Malda. Over the next four days, she will cover North and South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts and Siliguri in north Bengal. For the next phase she will start from Murshidabad on April 15 and then go to Nadia and Birbhum. From April 17 to 24, she will campaign in North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata.
Congress has been keen on a joint campaign with TMC to cash in on Mamata’s popularity. PCC chief Manas Bhunia had been insisting on a joint campaign even before the two parties began seat-sharing talks. The two parties campaigning together would send out a signal of unity against the CPM, state party leaders said.
Elections will be held on April 18, 23, and 27, May 3, 7 and 10 for the 294 Assembly seats in the state.