Congress to launch ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ today
The actual 'yatra' will begin on September 8 when Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders will embark on the cross-country march on foot
The Congress is set to launch the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, the longest such rally mounted in the country over the last century, on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.
The 3,500 kilometre long march, which aims to highlight burning issues such as economic disparity, social polarisation and political centralisation, will be formally flagged off by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after he pays homage at the Sriperumbudur memorial near Chennai where his father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated in 1991.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel will be among those present at the launch function at the Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam in Kanyakumari, where the former Congress chief will be handed over a Khadi national flag.
He will then walk to the venue of the public rally where the padayatra (foot march) will begin.
Though the yatra will be formally launched at the rally, it will actually begin at 7 am on September 8 when Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders will embark on the cross-country journey on foot.
The Congress MP from Wayanad had on Sunday spelt out the reasons behind the party holding the yatra.
“The government has blocked all paths for us. The medium of Parliament is not there. Congress leaders, the Opposition people cannot make speeches in Parliament, our mic is put off; we want to talk about China's attack, can't do it; we want to talk on unemployment, can't do that; want to talk about inflation, can't do that,” he said at the party's 'Mehngai Par Halla Bol Rally' held in Delhi on Sunday.
“Our institutions, whether it is the media, Election Commission, judiciary, there is an attack on them, there is pressure on them. So all the roads are closed for us; there is only one way left, to go to the people. The truth of the country has to be told to the people, that is why the party is undertaking the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra',” he said.
As per the details of the event disclosed by party general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh at a press conference held in the national Capital on Monday, the padayatra will move in two batches. "The morning batch will be from 7-10.30 am and the other from 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm, with the latter expected to see a far greater number of participants. On average, the padyatris will walk around 22-23 km daily," he said.
Ramesh said that besides the main yatra, there will be separate small ‘Bharat Jodo Yatras’ to be held simultaneously in states such as Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Sikkim, West Bengal and Nagaland.
He clarified that Rahul Gandhi would not be leading the yatra but walking along with others to highlight the issues of the people.
The march will culminate in Srinagar after moving through Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, covering a distance of around 3,500 kilometers in about 150 days.
The party has classified 119 leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, as 'Bharat Yatris' who will walk through the entire distance from Kanyakumari to Srinagar.
Urging everyone to participate in the yatra, the Congress last week stated that the rally is meant to provide an alternative to the “politics of fear, bigotry and prejudice” and to the "economics of livelihood destruction, increasing unemployment and growing inequalities".
The party had unveiled a logo, tagline, pamphlet and website for the yatra. The tagline or slogan for the nationwide foot march is “mile kadam, jude vatan” (walk together, unite the country).
Speaking at the event, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said anyone willing to join Rahul Gandhi on the yatra can do so by registering on the official website.
The country’s main Opposition party also released the anthem of the yatra on Monday at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi.
During the press conference held in Delhi on Monday, Jairam Ramesh asserted that the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is not a ‘Mann Ki Baat’ in any manner, and that its objective was to ensure that the concerns and demands of the people reach Delhi.
"It (yatra) is not about long speeches, preaching, dramatics, teleprompter; we are going to listen," Ramesh said, taking a dig at PM Narendra Modi.
On Tuesday, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi issued a video message explaining why the party had organised the yatra and called upon people to join it.
"What is the need of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ today? Is this country not united? What are we adding? The answer is that crores of countrymen like you work very hard. Some are working in their home, some are working in agriculture. Somebody is working in a factory. Somebody is doing a government job. Everyone is working hard. We are trying to take this country forward by working hard, but the political discussion is not going on. The government is not taking your questions. The problems and struggles you are facing are not being discussed,” she said.
“Today the discussion is of a different kind. Politics has become negative. Politics should talk about the problems of the people. That should be the real discussion. Why is there so much inflation? Why is there unemployment?” she said.
The Congress general secretary said, “Many people asked us how they can join this yatra. We have an official website, there is complete information on which day and where this yatra is passing and in what way. If this journey is passing through your city, your area, if you have an hour, a day or sometime, as many people as possible should join it. Because it is a positive thing. It’s a good idea. There is love, we're talking about uniting this country. Join it and make the country strong."
Over 200 civil society members have appealed to the people to support the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' and similar initiatives by any other organisation to defend against the "systematic assault" on the unity and democracy of India.
The objective of the march is to "stir the conscience of the people in times when the constitutional values and democratic norms are being brazenly undermined" and the very idea of India has come under a "systematic assault", they said in a statement.
"Never before have the values of our republic faced as heinous an assault as they have in the recent past. Never before have hate, division and exclusion unleashed on us with such impunity. Never before have an overwhelming majority of the farmers and workers, Dalits and Adivasis, women and religious minorities faced such effective exclusion in the shaping of the nation's future," they said, adding that the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' is set to take place in the context of "this grave national crisis".
“This is a moment of reckoning. Every one of us needs to say: 'No, not on my conscience'. At stake is our unique pluralistic social fabric, which is our greatest civilizational inheritance, reflected in our Constitution," they said.
"Let us all make 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' the decisive step towards renewing our pledge to reclaim an India that is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic with liberty, equality, justice and fraternity as its guiding lights," they added.
Swaraj India founder Yogendra Yadav, documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, All India Secular Front's Anil Sadgopal, rights activist Anjali Bharadwaj, theatre maker Anuradha Kapur, eminent journalist Mrinal Pande, former MP Dharamveer Gandhi and former IAS officers Abhijit Sengupta and Sujata Rao are among the 204 civil society members who signed the appeal.
Rahul Gandhi had sought the participation of 150 civil society organisations at a conclave held in the national Capital recently where the plans for the party’s yatra were shared and deliberated upon.
He had said at the event that the yatra was like a tapasya for him and that he is ready for the “long battle” to unite the country.
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Published: 06 Sep 2022, 9:00 PM