Rahul embarks on Nyay Yatra, says Cong will present 'new vision for India devoid of violence, hate'
Rahul envisions the yatra as a platform for "grassroots dialogue", fostering "a vision for a harmonious, prosperous, and powerful nation"
The Congress' Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra began from Manipur on Sunday, 14 January with Rahul Gandhi asserting that the party will present "a new vision for India" that will be based on 'harmony, brotherhood and equitability and devoid of hatred, violence and monopoly'.
At a rally to flag off the over-6,700-km yatra with which the party is looking to set the narrative for the Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not visiting Manipur as it reeled under ethnic violence, and vowed to ensure justice for its people.
Gandhi said he had to undertake the yatra as the country was going through a period of "great injustice" and stressed the party wants to listen to people's 'Mann Ki Baat'.
Ahead of the 22 January consecration ceremony at the Ayodhya Ram temple, Kharge attacked the BJP and Modi, saying everyone has faith in God but one should not resort to "dhongbaazi (deception)" for securing votes.
"Wo samandar ke upar sair karte firte hai, aur jap karte baithte hain -- Ram Ram Ram Ram (He is seen enjoying the sea, sitting and chanting Ram Ram). 'Mukh mein Ram, bagal mein churi', do not do this with the people," the Congress president said, referring to the Hindi idiom that cautions against people whose words and actions differ.
Hours before the start of the yatra, senior Congress leader Milind Deora announced his resignation from the party, in the latest addition to a list of young leaders who have left it to begin new innings in other parties.
But the Congress downplayed his exit, with general secretary Jairam Ramesh saying that one Milind Deora goes away but "lakhs of Milinds who believe in our organisation and ideology stay".
The BJP described the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra as "Bharat Todo Yatra", and said the Congress should first provide justice to the leaders deserting it and to the people wronged by its erstwhile governments instead of promoting Rahul Gandhi and trying to maintain the hold of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Later in the day, Gandhi embarked on the journey in a custom-made Volvo bus, fitted with a hydraulic lift to enable the leader to address crowds, as top Congress leaders, including Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah, Revanth Reddy and Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, cheered him on.
The bus travelled to Imphal, a distance of about 40 km, with Gandhi interacting with locals who lined up along the route. He also covered a short distance on foot after sunset, carrying a flaming torch, along with other leaders and locals.
The yatra flag-off rally was attended in large numbers by women and youngsters.
Lok Sabha MP Danish Ali, who has been suspended by the BSP, also attended the rally and joined Gandhi in the bus.
Addressing the rally, Kharge alleged that Modi had earlier come to Manipur for votes but when people were in trouble, he did not visit.
The ethnic violence that broke out in the northeastern state in May last year has claimed more than 180 lives and rendered thousands homeless.
With top Congress leaders on the dais, Gandhi explained the reasons for taking out the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra after his Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra that ended January last year.
"Question arises, why Nyay Yatra? Because we are going through a period of great injustice in India -- social, economic and political injustice. Injustice against the people of Manipur, the traditions of Manipur, but also injustice across the nation," he said.
Monopolies are being built and only a few people are getting access to all the wealth of the country, he alleged.
"One or two businesses have their fingers in everything and the large majority of businesses -- small and medium businesses -- are being destroyed. Huge levels of unemployment and massive price rise is what the whole of India is facing," Gandhi said.
"On the social side, the large mass of India's people -- the lower castes, Dalits and tribals -- simply do not have a say in the governance system... I have given you example upon example of how the large mass of our people are excluded from the political system and the governance system," he said.
These are the issues that the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is going to raise, "but this is less about us and more about you", he told the gathering.
Noting that during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, they used to walk during the day and have interactions in the evening, Gandhi said the idea was to listen to farmers, labourers, small shopkeepers, women and youths.
This is the aim of this yatra (Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra) as well, he added.
"We do not want to speak much, we do not want to tell you our 'Mann Ki Baat'. We want to listen to your 'Mann Ki Baat', understand your pain," Gandhi said.
He said the party is going to present the next vision for India which is not of violence, hatred and monopoly, but a vision which is "harmonious, equitable and of brotherhood". "After listening to your voice, we are going to present that vision to India," he said.
Later in a post in Hindi on X, Gandhi said, "And from this grassroots dialogue will emerge the vision of building a peaceful, prosperous and powerful India. 'Vision of India' which is based on equality, brotherhood and harmony, in which there is no place for hatred, violence and monopoly."
In his remarks at the rally, he also slammed the BJP-led central and state governments for the situation in Manipur.
He alleged that the people of Manipur lost what is precious to them because of the politics and ideology of the BJP and the "hatred that was spread" by the ruling party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"We understand, all of us on the stage understand the pain that the people of Manipur have been through. We understand the hurt, the loss, the sadness that you have been through and we promise you, we commit to you, that we will bring back what you valued. We will bring back the harmony, the peace, the affection that this state has always been known for," Gandhi asserted.
"I came to Manipur on June 29 (last year) and during that visit, what I saw, what I heard, I had never seen or heard of before. I have been in politics since 2004, for the first time I went to a state in India, where the entire governance infrastructure had collapsed. What we used to call Manipur, after 29 June, it was no longer Manipur," he said.
Gandhi said it got divided, hatred had spread in every corner, lakhs of people suffered losses and people saw their brothers, sisters and parents die before their eyes.
But "till date the Prime Minister of India has not come to Manipur to wipe your tears, hug you, hold your hand... It is a shameful thing", Gandhi said.
"Perhaps for Narendra Modi ji, for the BJP and the RSS, Manipur is not a part of India at all. Your sorrow is your pain, it is not their sorrow or their pain," he said.
The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra will pass through 100 Lok Sabha constituencies in 15 states. It will traverse 6,713 km, mostly in buses but also on foot, and culminate in Mumbai on 20 or 21 March.