Party sources informed that Rahul Gandhi would address tribals and farmers on the occasion.
New Delhi: In what could be termed as a major tribal outreach just weeks before the Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi would be visiting Bastar on February 16 to hand over 1,765 hectares of land to farmers. These had been acquired around 10 years ago to set up a Rs 19,500 crore steel plant in Lohandiguda by the erstwhile BJP government led by Raman Singh.
According to party sources, Mr Gandhi would personally hand over “pattas” of land to the tribals from whom it had been acquired for the proposed steel plant, which was to be set up by Tata Steel.
The visit, they added, would send out a message to tribals, who constitute around 32 per cent of Chhattisgarh’s population, that Congress has its ear to the ground and is sensitive to their concerns.
With the Congress president personally handing over the land ‘pattas’ to tribals, sources noted that this would not only bolster Mr Gandhi’s pro-poor image, but also give a leg-up to the confidence shown by the people of the state in the party, which late last year had stormed back to power there after 15 years by routing the BJP.
Party sources informed that Mr Gandhi would address tribals and farmers on the occasion. With his visit coming close on the heels of the impending Lok Sabha elections, it would drive home the point that while Congress is not anti-development, it should not happen at the cost of the interest of the poor.
The proposed steel plant, which was to be set up by Tata Steel, could not materialise due to widespread agitations by farmers. In 2016, the company had withdrawn from the project.
In December 2018, when Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had ordered return of the land to farmers.
In its poll manifesto for the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections held in November 2018, Congress had promised that land for any project, which fails to take off within five years of acquisition of land, would be returned to the original owners.