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Rahul Gandhi to revisit KBK after 9 years

BHUBANESWAR: Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had thrown his weight at the back of the primitive tribes of Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district of their battle in opposition to bauxite mining via Vedanta in 2008 and 2010, will go back to the district after around a decade on February 6.

His consult with is being seen as an attempt to revive the birthday party organisation in the KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) region of western Odisha, the place the BJP had made inroads via sweeping the zilla parishad (ZP) elections in 2017. The saffron birthday party had grabbed 88 out of 186 seats in eight KBK districts. In Kalahandi, Congress bagged simply two ZP seats out of 36.

Senior Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das said a public meeting might be held at the outskirts of Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters the town of Kalahandi. “People from 9 districts will attend it. Congress has received in 3 states recently. People of Odisha, particularly that of the KBK region, have great expectations from Rahul,” Das said.

In 2008, Rahul had called himself “sipahi” of the Dongria Kondha tribals and promised them Vedanta might not be allowed to mine the Niyamgiri hills for bauxite. The Dongrias had then upped their ante in opposition to the company. Two years later in 2010, he came calling again and said he fulfilled his promise. Vedanta has still now not been able to mine the bauxite wealthy hill in Lanjigarh.

Sources said Kalahandi has been a Congress vote bank but the drubbing in the ZP ballot has forced the birthday party to focus on the region. “Then Rahul was general secretary of the birthday party and new to the uneven waters of politics. Going via his recent leadership that helped the birthday party win in 3 states, the birthday party’s KBK card may pay dividends in eight KBK districts the place Congress had to be happy with the 3rd place in the ZP polls,” said an analyst.

Kalahandi’s poverty had attracted 3 former prime ministers. In 1984, Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi had visited Amlapali village (now in Nuapada district, but then in undivided Kalahandi district) to satisfy Phanus Punji, who had sold her sister-in-law Banita for Rs 40 and a saree. Sometime sooner than 1984, Rahul’s grandmother Indira Gandhi had visited a village in the region. In 1993, then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had visited Amjhari village. After returning, Rao came up with the KBK programme to counter poverty.

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