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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Congress revival in mind, Rahul sets off on Bharat Yatra today

On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi will begin a determined bid to change both — the party’s battered fortunes and his bruised image — by setting off on a gruelling 3,570-km Bharat Jodo Yatra from here.

His party has not won an Assembly election on its own since the humiliating defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His critics, both inside and outside the Congress, have labelled him as a non-serious and reluctant politician.

On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi will begin a determined bid to change both — the party’s battered fortunes and his bruised image — by setting off on a gruelling 3,570-km Bharat Jodo Yatra from here.

Starting from Kanyakumari, Rahul and 100-odd “Bharat yatris” from different states plan to finish their ambitious odyssey in Srinagar by the beginning of February next year. Rahul’s padayatra is unique in many aspects — he will be the first politician in the last nearly four decades to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

He and his fellow yatris will stay the night on the road in containers mounted on trucks.

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The last time a politician undertook such a journey on foot was in the 1980s, when Chandra Shekhar, president of the erstwhile Janata Party, crisscrossed the country from Kanyakumari to Delhi. He was 56 then.

Rahul Gandhi will be the first politician in the last nearly four decades to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. (Express)

Other leaders had embarked on Bharat yatras since then, but on ‘raths’ or buses.

Rahul wants to do it the hard way, as the challenges that he and his party faces are huge.

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The former Congress president will begin Wednesday by attending a prayer gathering at the memorial of his slain father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

In Kanyakumari, Rahul will visit Thiruvalluvar memorial, Vivekananda memorial and Kamaraj memorial before attending a prayer meeting at the Mahatma Gandhi mandapam. He will then receive the national flag from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin before walking to the seaside venue of the public rally, where the yatra will be formally launched in the presence of all top Congress leaders, including its two chief ministers — Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel.

The Congress believes the Bharat Jodo Yatra will be a “transformational moment” for Indian politics and a “decisive moment” for the party’s rejuvenation. The yatra will pass through 12 states over the next 150 days — from Tamil Nadu, it will go to Kerala and enter Karnataka, a key state where the Congress believes it has a strong chance to oust BJP in the Assembly polls, due next summer.

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It will pass through Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where Assembly elections are due in November-December next year but will skip Gujarat, where polls are around the corner.

The first month of the yatra will coincide with elections to the post of Congress president. While Rahul, who is said to be not keen to contest, will be on the road, all eyes will be on the party headquarters at 24, Akbar Road between September 24 and 30, when nominations are to be filed.

The big question is whether there will be a contest for the top post after a gap of 22 years.

The decision to set off on a nationwide yatra is seen as an answer to the criticism that Rahul and the party’s central leadership were reluctant to hit the roads. Many senior leaders have over the years argued that Congress’s presence has largely been confined to social media.

Addressing a rally on Sunday, Rahul, however, argued that Congress had no option but to go to the people directly, as the BJP-led government at the Centre has “blocked all avenues” to reach out to the people.

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“The avenue of Parliament is blocked for us. The Congress and the Opposition cannot speak in Parliament. Our microphones are switched off. We cannot speak on any issue — be it attack by China, unemployment, or price rise. Our institutions — the media, Election Commission or the judiciary — are under attack and under pressure. So all avenues are shut for us.”

“Only one path is open for us, and we like that path the most — go to the people directly and tell them the truth about the country… and to listen and understand their mind,” he said.

First published on: 07-09-2022 at 02:00:24 am
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