Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is expected to walk the last leg of the Gujarat Pradesh Youth Congress’s (GPYC) “Vikas Khoj Padyatra”’ and address a public meeting on the concluding day of the event at Bardoli in south Gujarat on February 8.
The event is being seen as a counter to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s campaign to build the Statue of Unity on the Narmada river.
Vallabhbhai Patel, who led the famous Bardoli Kisan Satyagraha in 1928, an example of non-violent struggle on Gandhian principles, went on to win him title of ‘Sardar’ from here. Modi is leading a campaign to collect iron from farmers across the country to build the Statue of Unity, the proposed 182-metre statue of Sardar Patel, which is to be the tallest in the world, in the tribal Narmada district.
Rahul Gandhi’s meeting is also expected to mobilise youth workers of the party as also the tribals in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections slated for April/May this year. The last time Gandhi participated in a padyatra in Gujarat was during the re-enactment of the Dandi march to commemorate its 75 years in 2005, soon after UPA-1 came to power in 2004.
As the party leaders say, the focus of the party is on the youth. Generally speaking, the party is concentrating its efforts in mobilising people in the age group of 20-40 years, who account for over 50 per cent of the voters in the country as well as Gujarat.
Party sources said that after landing in Surat, Gandhi will join the padyatris for a distance of about 5 km from Putwada village in Mahuva taluka of Surat district to Bardoli via Vadod and Delwada. Besides state party leaders, he will be accompanied by Indian Youth Congress (IYC) president Rajiv Satav.
Party leaders said the padyatra was being organised under directions of Rahul Gandhi himself. A similar padyatra was organised last month in Kerala, the concluding programme of which was addressed by Rahul Gandhi as well.
State Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said Bardoli had been chosen for the concluding event because of its significance in the country’s freedom struggle. It was here that tribal leaders initiated a movement in 1928, after the then British government refused to reduce the tax on land in spite of the severe droughts that hit the area. They later invited Vallabh bhai Patel and their movement turned into a success.
Doshi said that on February 8, the youth Congress leaders and Rahul Gandhi will focus particularly on the BJP government’s failure to bring about any concrete development in the state. The padyatra have so far been addressed by several Central party leaders including Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, former cricketer and MP from Moradabad Mohammed
Azharuddin and Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia. State youth Congress leader Nagendra Rathod said that padyatris were moving from village to village, from door to door to inform people of the party’s policies regarding the rural poor.
The padyatra that started from Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 18, will cover a distance of 500 km across seven Lok Sabha and 33 Assembly constituencies in central and south Gujarat regions.