Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited DMK President Karunanidhi at the Kauvery hospital in Chennai on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Mukul Wasnik, Tamil Nadu in-charge of Congress from New Delhi and joined by Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President S Thirunavukkarasar from the airport.  He was received by DMK Working President MK Stalin and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi in the hospital on Tuesday.  “I wanted to come and see Karunanidhi ji. He has the spirit of Tamil people and we have a long relationship with Karunanidhi. He is very tough person like the people of Tamil Nadu and he has the spirit of Tamil Nadu in him and I was happy to see him stable. Sonia ji sent her best wishes and regards to the family,” he told reporters after meeting the DMK Supremo.  Karunanidhi was admitted to Kauvery hospital late on Thursday night after his blood pressure dropped. Leaders across the political spectrum and celebrities have been visiting the hospital to enquire about his health to his family members.  Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Governor of Tamil Nadu Banwarilal Purohit, political leaders TTV Dinakaran (AMMK Chief), Seeman (Naam Tamilar katchi chief), Thirumavalavan (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal katchi chief), Mutharasan (Communist Party of India leader), GK Vasan (Tamil Manila Congress chief), Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik from Congress, Sarath Kumar (Indiya Samathuva Makkal katchi leader), Kamal Haasan (Makkal Needhi Maiam chief), Vaiko (Marumalarchi Dravidar Munnetra kazhagam leader), Sitaram Yechury (Communist Party of India (M) General Secretary), Ramadoss (Pattali Makkal Katchi leader), poet-lyricist Vairamuthu, Jaggi Vasudev and several other leaders, actors and celebrities visited Kauvery hospital since Friday.  Hundreds of cadres have been gathering in front of the hospital, raising slogans for their leader to get well soon despite the weather conditions. Cadres also involved themselves in extensive prayers, gestures like tonsuring their heads and signature campaigns praying for their leader to get well soon.  On Sunday night, the hospital issued a bulletin on Karunanidhi’s health. The bulletin mentioned that there was a ‘transient’ setback in his health and with active medical support, his vital signs are normalising. On Monday, MK Stalin said that there is no change in the health condition of Karunanidhi and that he was still under the supervision of a team of expert doctors. 

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday reached out to several Opposition leaders, including Congress bosses Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at the Gandhi residence. While criticizing BJP over the Assam NRC debate, Banerjee said that the ruling party is worried about its chances in 2019 as the entire opposition will come together to defeat them.

Coming out of Sonia Gandhi’s residence, Banerjee told reporters, “Our relationship goes back several years. We discussed politics, NRC and how will we fight the 2019 elections together.”

Speaking on BJP attacking her over her ‘civil war’ comment on NRC, Banerjee shot back at the party saying, “I am not BJP's servant to reply to any of their statements. I didn't say this (civil war remark), my concern is about the 40 lakh people whose names are not in the list (NRC). BJP is politically tensed because they know they won't come to power in 2019.”

In Delhi to meet opposition party leaders, Banerjee said that she is not vying for the post of prime minister and the candidate for the top post would be chosen collectively by all opposition parties.

Banerjee, who has been trying to consolidate opposition unity, spent the second day of her Delhi visit meeting leaders of various parties including the Congress, TDP, YSR (Congress), DMK, RJD, SP and JD(S) and invited them to her rally on January 19 in Kolkata.

The TMC chief also met veteran BJP leader LK Advani at his chamber stating that her relations with him go back many years. Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena, an NDA constituent, also came to meet Banerjee at the TMC office and she invited Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to the January 19 rally.

The TMC chief said that the first priority is to bring all opposition parties together to take on the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

"I am not for any post. I am interested in seeing that all parties should work together. All political parties will sit together and decide," she told reporters wile replying to queries on the issue.

The TMC office in Parliament was abuzz after Banerjee arrived there on Wednesday and opposition leaders made a beeline to meet her.

She spoke to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel. Banerjee also met Advani at his chamber. "I went to meet him and enquired about his health," she told reporters.

Suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad hailed her as a great leader and said that her efforts to consolidate all opposition parties are "commendable".

The TMC chief later went to the Central Hall of the Parliament to meet other opposition leaders and invited them to the rally.

Banerjee also appealed to all the opposition parties to send a joint delegation to the Election Commission against EVM tampering and holding polls on ballots. "All opposition parties should go to EC on this matter," Banerjee told Congress and other opposition leaders.

Interestingly, Banerjee extended an invitation for the rally to the Shiv Sena chief through Raut who said the party would take a decision on it. Though a constituent of the NDA, the Sena has been openly critical of the Modi government.

Banerjee also met JD(S) leader Deve Gowda and invited him to the rally.

She has also appealed to the leaders to send an all opposition party delegation to Assam stating that though TMC delegation would be visiting Assam on Thursday, other parties should also create pressure on the government.

Banerjee is also slated to meet Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and invite them to her rally.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi will kickstart his election campaigning for poll-bound Madhya Pradesh from the holy town of Omkareshwar in the first week of September.

After giving his piece of advice to the Congress leaders from Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday to show a strength of unity ahead of the Assembly election scheduled for end of this year, Rahul finalised his campaigning plan.

According to the plan, Rahul will first visit Omkareshwar temple — one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines in India dedicated to Lord Shiva — which is in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

After the manhandling episode of Madhya Pradesh Congress in-charge Deepak Babaria in Rewa, allegedly by a group of party workers on 29 July, Rahul called for an emergency meeting at his 12 Tughlak Lane residence on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The meeting was attended by Babaria, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Kamal Nath, campaign committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia, Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Assembly Ajay Singh, former PCC president Arun Yadav, and senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Arun Pachauri and Vivek Tankha.

Against the backdrop of grievance redressal, the Congress president had a detailed discussion with the leaders on planning and campaigning strategy in the state and the constituencies to be covered.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi will begin his campaign in Madhya Pradesh from first week of September. Reuters
Congress president Rahul Gandhi will begin his campaign in Madhya Pradesh from first week of September. Reuters
“PCC president has informed that Rahul ji will begin his campaigning for Madhya Pradesh election from Omkareshwar, which is in my constituency, during the first week of September,” former Union minister Arun Yadav told Firstpost.

As part of his election campaign, the Congress president will cover four Lok Sabha constituencies in the first three phases.

“Yesterday's (Tuesday) meeting with Congress president primarily focussed on planning and the campaign strategy for the upcoming election in Madhya Pradesh. Besides his tour plan, Rahul ji took stock of the ground situation in the state, about the issues and how the party would proceed ahead of the election,” he added.

According to the plan, Rahul will cover Neemarh-Mandwa-Dhar region of Madhya Pradesh in the first phase. He will cover 22 Assembly seats. Even during Gujarat and Karnataka Assembly polls, Rahul had visited temples as part of his campaigning strategy, and the move was termed as ‘soft Hindutva’ by his political rivals.

“Congress president visits temple not to play any 'soft Hindutva' card. Even before Gujarat and Karnataka polls, he had visited temples during the Uttar Pradesh election. But as it remained out of media watch, no one talked about it. Besides Omkareshwar, he may visit temples in other districts as well,” a Congress source from Madhya Pradesh said.

Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — the three poll bound BJP-ruled states — are seen as big challenges for the Congress.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for the last 15 years. After the end of a decade-long Congress rule under Digvijaya Singh in 2003, the party failed to strengthen itself in the state to pose a tough challenge to ruling BJP.

Since then, the grand old party of India has been grappling with factionalism and infighting in the state. It faced embarrassment and criticism after oblique comments were made by some of its leaders in the state. Babaria episode was the latest one to happen.

After taking over as Congress president, Rahul had asked party leaders to bury any kind of factionalism, and contest elections in poll-bound states unitedly. The central leadership initiated changes in the state’s organisational structure. Veteran leader and Chhindwara MP Kamal Nath, and comparatively younger Guna MP Scindia have been given key responsibilities this year in Madhya Pradesh, which is to boost party’s winning prospects. The PCC has also prepared plans to amplify the pitch of poll campaigning using social media and other options.

Congress is also contemplating on whether to share seats with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the state.


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