- Rahul Gandhi to begin Congress's election campaign in Madhya Pradesh
- His 18-km roadshow in Bhopal to end with a meeting with party workers
- Posters and cut-outs of Rahul Gandhi have come up in the state capital
Fresh from his 12-day Kailash-Mansarovar trip, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi started his party's campaign in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh with a mega roadshow in Bhopal today. Life-size cut-outs and posters with photographs of Mr Gandhi pouring holy water on Shivalinga have come up along the 18-km route that Mr Gandhi is covering in a bus.
During his day-long visit to the state capital, the 48-year-old Shiv bhakt or devotee of Lord Shiva, as has been projected by his party workers, sought blessings from Hindu priests and young girls before beginning his roadshow from Lalghati Square, close to the Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal. Thousands of party workers and supporters accompanied him holding the party's flags as he started the Sankalp Yatra. The cavalcade passed through the old city areas, including Royal Market and Peer Gate, before concluding the show at BHEL Dussehra Maidan in the evening.
Mr Gandhi along with senior party leaders Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and others made a brief halt for chai, samosa (tea, snacks) and selfies.
Mr Gandhi will address a meeting of Congress workers, which is open to public, before leaving in the evening, state party spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said. A T-shaped ramp has been constructed near the stage from where Mr Gandhi will take questions from party workers.
Over two lakh Congress workers are expected to participate in the event, Congress leader Bhupendra Gupta said.
Security has been tightened in the city and an additional 1,500 policemen have been deployed, Jaideep Prasad, Bhopal's Inspector General (IG) of Police, said.
"Rahul Gandhi's track record hasn't been good for his party. Wherever he has gone to campaign, the Congress has lost. He isn't bothered about the problems of the people of the country. He isn't aware of the situation here. He is doing this for the sake of votes," Madhya Pradesh Revenue Minister Umashankar Gupta said ahead of the Congress leader's visit.
The Congress chief left for Kailash-Mansarovar on August 31, keeping a promise he had made in April, when his plane plunged hundreds of feet while flying him to a public meeting for the Karnataka polls.
Once there, he shared pictures of Mansarovar lake and captioned that "there is no hatred here". As images and videos of the picturesque lake and mountains flooded Mr Gandhi's Twitter handle, the BJP targeted him for his "ignorance about the cultural and religious significance of the Mansarovar Yatra".
The ruling party had earlier disapproved of his temple visits while campaigning in Gujarat and Karnataka and alleged that the Congress leader was playing a "soft Hindutva" card.