Rahul Gandhi is set to launch the Congress party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ today from Kanyakumari, at around 5 pm during a rally, with the foot march scheduled to begin on Thursday morning. The 3,500-kilometre-long yatra, dubbed by the Congress as the “longest march” organised in the country over the past century, will last for nearly 150 days.
Over the next 150 days, Congress workers and leaders will walk in two batches led by Rahul Gandhi, to cover 12 states and two Union Territories. In addition to walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Gandhi will hold a special event at the end of his yatra, in Srinagar.
Today, Rahul Gandhi began his day by visiting the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, where his father was murdered in a suicide bomb attack on May 21, 1991. In a tweet following the visit, Rahul Gandhi wrote, “I lost my father to the politics of hate and division. I will not lose my beloved country to it too. Love will conquer hate. Hope will defeat fear. Together, we will overcome.”
Congress party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, on Tuesday, that the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ will bring people together on important problems like unemployment and inflation. “We are starting a positive politics. We want to hear from you, we want to solve your problems. We want to unite our beloved country. Let’s unite India together,” she said in a Facebook video. She added, “Political discussion today isn’t focusing on the people of the country, it has taken a different turn altogether. Politics today has turned a blind eye towards people and their issues.”
“Through this yatra we want to bring out the problems and concerns of the common man,” Priyanka Vadra added further. The Congress leader asked people to participate in the yatra, saying that they should band together to make the nation affluent.
According to Rahul Gandhi, the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is like a tapasya, to unite the country against the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the social polarisation and political centralisation that have apparently grown under their administration. Congress plans to use the march to contact a huge number of voters in advance, in preparation for the 2024 general election. However, Congress leaders have denied any political motivation behind the yatra, insisting that it is only meant to unite the country. The Congress claims that the yatra is the party’s largest-ever “Jan Samparka programme”, during which they would attempt to engage the general public on a number of topics, including unemployment, inflation, and price increases.
Reportedly, Rahul Gandhi will spend the next five months living in a shipping container during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin will hand over the national flag to Gandhi at Kanyakumari’s Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam on Wednesday evening for the launch of the march. Aside from the Tamil Nadu CM, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot will also be in attendance. The yatra’s preliminary list of participants includes the Congress’ youth leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, Pawan Khera, and former Punjab minister Vijay Inder Singla.
The leaders will arrive in Kerala on September 11 and will stay for 18 days, before arriving in Karnataka on September 30. The foot march will last 21 days in Karnataka.
In addition to sleeping beds, toilets, and air conditioners (in some of the containers), these ‘homes’ are essentially large freight containers. Arrangements have been made to protect the occupants against intense temperature and environmental changes throughout the trip.
A village has been established in Kanyakumari to house these containers, according to new reports, citing internal sources. Nearly 60 suc containers have been prepared. Every night, the containers will be parked at a new spot, in the shape of a village. It is expected that the full-time yatris who live with Rahul Gandhi will eat together and socialise as a group.
CM Gehlot, who is also in Kanyakumari for the launch of the yatra, said that Congress leaders and workers want Rahul Gandhi to take over as the party chief. “This will strengthen the party,” he said. Party MP Jairam Ramesh said that the yatra is a “transformational moment for Indian politics and it is a decisive moment for the rejuvenation of the party”.
Meanwhile, the BJP has criticised the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ today, calling it “hollow”, and asserting that it was simply a “family-saving campaign” to maintain the Gandhis’ hold on the party, and an additional effort to elevate Rahul Gandhi to the leadership position.
BJP politician and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad remarked:
“Essentially, it is a family-saving campaign. The family’s and the party’s political expanse has been shrinking while they face corruption charges. This is not about unifying the country but trying to establish him (Rahul) again as a leader. I would like to know how many times he will be launched and relaunched?”
Speaking of the recent departure of prominent Congressmen such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prasad claimed that Rahul Gandhi is unable to unite even his own party.