Sonia Gandhi to attend Kerala’s snake boat race


Alappuzha (Kerala) : Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be the chief guest at the 57th edition of Kerala’s famed snake boat race here Saturday, an event that is named after India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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District Collector Minnie Antony said the Nehru Trophy Boat Race this year would see the presence of many VIPs, including Gandhi, apart from thousands of tourists.

“Others who will be present include union ministers Ambika Soni, Kumari Selja, Shashi Tharoor. And in all probability Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi would also be with Sonia Gandhi,” Antony told IANS.

Tomy Pulikattil, a member of the organising committee that conducts the race, said this is the first time that the event would see such an impressive list of dignitaries.

“We have had a meeting and the security would be very high. We are delighted that over the years lot of importance has been given to this event, which now has become an internationally acclaimed one,” said Pulikattil.

Gandhi is expected to reach here by helicopter from Kochi and would leave immediately after the event at around 6 p.m.

This event commemorates former prime minister Nehru’s visit to the state in 1952 when a pageantry of boats accompanied him on his trip from Kottayam to Alappuzha.

The first race was conducted impromptu at that time in his honour. Nehru, thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen, jumped into a snake boat disregarding security arrangements and protocol. The boat proceeded to the jetty with him on board.

On returning to Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy to the oarsmen. It is a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus, with an inscription and his signature.