Congress leader Sonia Gandhi will arrive in Mumbai on Thursday, marking her fourth visit to the city in 24 years, to attend the two-day INDIA National Opposition Conclave.
Accompanied by her son and MP Rahul Gandhi, she will be received by top party leaders like Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, state chief Nana Patole and other senior state and central functionaries.
This will be Sonia Gandhi’s first visit to Mumbai in nine years and just her fourth in 24 years to the country’s commercial capital, making it “a very exciting and special occasion” for the state unit, high-level party sources said.
However, she has visited other parts of Maharashtra innumerable times in the past over three decades as she closely monitors the state politics despite her frail health, said a senior leader, requesting anonymity.
Incidentally, on all her previous tours to Mumbai, the Congress was in power in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra.
But during her upcoming trip, her party is part of the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) bloc.
On July 15, 2000, Sonia Gandhi had visited the victims of the devastating hillslide tragedy that struck in Ghatkopar’s Azad Nagar slums following torrential rains.
The calamity claimed the lives of over 80 slum-dwellers, many of whom were buried along with their shanties.
Sonia Gandhi had flown down to inspect the disaster site, with the then Chief Minister, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh and other top leaders in tow, met the victims at the civic-run Rajawadi Hospital, and handed out compensation to them.
The second trip to Mumbai on July 30, 2009 was a happy occasion — to inaugurate the country’s first cable-stayed Bandra Worli Sea Link, which is named after her husband and the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
She was flanked by the then Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and other top leaders at the glittering function to launch the RGBWSL, a key north-south thoroughfare that has massively slashed the commute time.
Now, the RGBWSL is being extended to the north and south to decongest traffic and further speed up the commuting between south Mumbai and the northern suburbs.
The third time Sonia Gandhi came to Mumbai was for a sad occasion — the death of a party veteran and former Union Minister, Murli S. Deora on November 24, 2014.
Deora’s demise had admittedly plunged the party into grief and besides Sonia Gandhi, many top leaders from across the country had attended his funeral here that day.
The then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, members of the Ambani family and other business honchos, leaders of different political parties and thousands of admirers had joined Deora’s final journey.
The MVA ally, Shiv Sena (UBT) President and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is hosting the INDIA Conclave which will be attended by over 100 leaders of around 28 Opposition political parties from the country.
It is considered as the biggest political exercise of its kind for Mumbai.
The deliberations and brain-storming sessions here, in which Sonia and Rahul will participate, are expected to set the tone for the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections when an aggressive INDIA hopes to dislodge the BJP from power.