If politics be food of love, march on: 88-year-old Cong worker walks the miles in Bharat Jodo Yatra

Marking the continuum of time and political history as he notches up mile after mile in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, 88-year-old Karuna Prasad Mishra knits together old world idealism

If politics be food of love, march on: 88-year-old Cong worker walks the miles in Bharat Jodo Yatra


Marking the continuum of time and political history as he notches up mile after mile in the Bharat Jodo Yatra with a stick in one hand and the tricolour in the other, 88-year-old Karuna Prasad Mishra knits together old world idealism with steely pragmatism about the India of today.

If politics be the food of love, march on. That, to misquote Shakespeare, could well be the mantra for the octogenarian who joined the Rahul Gandhi-led yatra from Ujjain and is defying age with his single minded resolve of walking all the way till Srinagar to hoist the tricolour from Lal Chowk.

"I resolved at the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain that I will travel till Kashmir... Congress workers asked me to sit in a car but I said no. I will take another resolution after I hoist the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar and I will undertake an east to west yatra," Mishra told PTI.

His family travelled to Kota in Rajasthan and requested him to return to his home in Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh, but he refused, reminding them that he is an old warhorse of the Congress who has been with the party for over 60 years after being initiated into the ranks by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960.

"I am used to this. I walked with Mahatma Gandhi-ji from Jabalpur to Allahabad in 1935-36. I was also with Nehru-ji and Vinoba Bhave-ji. I am used to walking," he said, dismissing concerns about his health.

With his Gandhi cap and a little bent with age as he walks his political talk, the seemingly frail Mishra could well be an anachronism. But he is clearly not, scripting instead an inspirational tale for the younger generation of Congress workers.

Acknowledging his appeal, the party has put out several Twitter posts centred around Mishra, including a video of Rahul Gandhi solicitously putting a shawl around him during a concert in Jaipur to mark 100 days of the yatra on December 16.

Talking about his initiation into the march, Mishra said, "From October 2, I took out a Bharat Jodo Yatra from my district in Madhya Pradesh's Sidhi. After covering the district, I took it to other districts in the state and ended in Sagar." "I was then contacted and asked to join the main yatra on November 29 in Ujjain. I have been walking continuously from Ujjain. I walk almost 15 kilometres daily," he said.

He said he joined the Congress in 1960 and never left.

"I kept serving the party quietly according to changing circumstances. After Indira-ji…Rajiv-ji took some time to understand things. But just as soon as he began to make improvements, he was taken away in an assassination and the Congress has weakened since then." Rahul Gandhi's march and his ideas have instilled new hope in him, he said, adding that he was troubled by growing intolerance in the country and decided to strengthen the march by walking with the former Congress president.

"I spoke with Rahul Gandhi and told him, 'Sau ke baad koi ginti nahi hoti aur haath jodne ke baad koi galti nahi',” Mishra said, stressing that mistakes will be forgiven if you are contrite. “So what if Congress made mistakes, the way you are walking from  Kanyakumari to Kashmir, the results of this will be there to see." In his view, the Bharat Jodo Yatra will bring about "huge change" in the country. Hitting out at the current leadership of the BJP, he said, "The BJP is not there anymore. It ended with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. These people of RSS, they want to spread Hindutva and want to destroy everything. They sidelined the BJP and took over." Mishra also alleged that the current dispensation has destroyed the youth with unemployment, troubled farmers and is carrying out "mindless" privatisation. He believes the Congress will return to power and Rahul Gandhi will one day be prime minister. "In this difficult time, this kind of person is the need of the hour. He is pure and a true soldier of the party. In my talks with him, I gauged that he is a fine man." The former Congress chief holds the octogenarian in high regard and often checks on his well being, Congress leaders said. Mishra stressed that the yatra is for inclusivity.  “When a part of the body does not work properly we give medicines, so this is a medicine for the BJP.” "The Congress is the spinal cord of the country, if some body part has a problem, the body may still function but it cannot function without the spinal cord," he said. Referring to the the massive crowd that had gathered on Friday when the yatra marked 100 days, Mishra is convinced the "storm" will yield results.

Rahul Gandhi comes from a family that has sacrificed so much, he noted. "So if a boy from such a family is taking the initiative, it is the responsibility of elders like me to support him and encourage him." The yatra, which was launched on September 7 in Kanyakumari has traversed eight states -- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and now Rajasthan. It will enter Delhi on December 24. After a break of about eight days, move on to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and finally Jammu and Kashmir.     It has seen participation from a cross-section of society, including film and TV celebrities such as Pooja Bhatt, Riya Sen, Sushant Singh, Swara Bhasker and Amol Palekar.     Besides tinsel town celebrities, writers, military veterans, including former Navy chief admiral L Ramdas, Opposition leaders such as Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray and the NCP's Supriya Sule, and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, have also joined the march at various points.

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