Sonia to visit Kerala to reinvigorate state party unit

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New Delhi, Nov 25 (UNI) Congress President Sonia Gandhi will be in Kerala for two days from December 15 to motivate party leaders and workers ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

She will address a public rally at Kochi on December 15 and a State Party Workers' Meet the next day, PCC Chief Ramesh Chennithala told UNI after his meeting with Ms Gandhi at her official 10 Janpath residence.

He said AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi would also attend both the rally and the meet.

The Congress lost all the 17 seats it had contested in the 2004 LOk Sabha elections.

Asked about speculation that the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would be expanded, Mr Chennithala said the UDF had not considered any proposal to admit any party, including the Nationalist Congress Party or the Samajwadi Party, into its fold.

"The present UDF is strong enough to face the forthcoming Parliamentary election," he said, while adding that the existing constituents of the UDF came together on the basis of programmes and policies.

There were reports that the NCP would be admitted to the UDF as part of the strategy to bring in Mr K Muralidharan, the son of Congress leader K Karunakaran, to the mainstream Kerala politics.

Though Mr Karunakaran returned to the Congress a year ago, Mr Muralidharan refused to toe the line of his father. Mr Muralidharan is the President of the state unit of the NCP in Kerala.

Asked if he discussed the NCP issue with Ms Gandhi, Mr Chennithala said a decision on admitting the NCP was to be taken not by the Congress but by the UDF constituents which include the IUML, Kerala Congress (Mani), Kerala Congress (Jacob), Kerala Congress (Pillai), Janadhipatiya Samrakshana Samiti and the Communist Marxist Party.

Mr Chennithala said he sought the personal intervention of Ms Gandhi, in her capacity as the ruling UPA Chairperson, in reducing the oil prices in the context of the crash in international crude oil prices.

She promised to look into the issue, he said.

Mr Chennithala said he also wanted Ms Gandhi to take up with the government the demand of Kerala for restoration of its ration rice quota for Above Poverty Line (APL) families.

UNI SH RR GC1700

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