Sonia Gandhi to visit Kerala on 29 September

Thiruvananthapuram: Congress President Sonia Gandhi will embark on a two-day visit to Kerala from September 29, where she is scheduled to inaugurate the campus of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies, set up by the Kerala unit of the party. Gandhi had planned to visit the state earlier this month but it was postponed as she went to the United States for medical treatment.

Her visit assumes significance as she is expected to have discussions with senior state leaders in view of Intensification of inner commotions in the state unit and rumblings in the ruling UDF in the backdrop of solar panel scam shaking the image of the Oommen Chandy ministry. A section in the party, said to have the backing of KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala and K Muraleedharan, has often aired critical views of the way the government has handled the image crisis gripping it.

Sonia Gandhi. Agencies.

Sonia Gandhi. Agencies.

Chandy's aborted move to bring in Chennithala to the ministry and the public debate it sparked has also marred the image of the Congress in the state. Since Lok Sabha polls are just a few months away, the central leadership has already asked the state unit to remain united to ensure that factional pulls and pressures would not mar the electoral prospects.

Also, the Congress leaders see it as important as this is Gandhi's first visit to Kerala after BJP declared Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. Interestingly, Modi is visiting Kerala on September 26 to participate in the 60th birthday celebrations of spiritual personality Mata Amritanandamayi at her ashram in Kollam district. According to Chennithala, the high point of Gandhi's visit is the inauguration of the five-acre campus of RGIDS at Neyyar, about 25 km from here.

The KPCC has been boasting that it has set a model for the party in other parts of the country as the first unit to have a full-fledged academic campus for development studies. Though sponsored by the party with its ideological positions getting prominence in academic activities, the campus has been conceived as an autonomous centre, offering research facilities to scholars on developmental politics and economics.

It will also conduct workshops and training programmes for party workers to equip them to deal with the grassroot level issues far more effectively and meaningfully. Gandhi will also launch the UDF government's ambitious "Zero-landless" scheme, pertaining to distribution of land to the landless.

PTI