Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra will enter its first Hindi heartland state of Madhya Pradesh on the morning of November 23 after finishing its Maharashtra leg. During the yatra, Gandhi will visit Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar Temple, offer puja to the holy Narmada river, and go to the birthplaces of tribal leader Tantya Bhil in Khandwa and B R Ambedkar in Indore’s Mhow.
After entering from the Burhanpur district, where Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi will join Rahul Gandhi, the yatra will cover Burhanpur, Khargone, Khandwa, Indore, and Ujjain and then go to Rajasthan from the Agar Malwa district covering a distance of 382 km in over 13 days. While the main Bharat Jodo Yatra will only be touching six districts, it will be joined by 15 sub-yatras, with each of them covering close to 300 km and 52 districts to join the Rahul Gandhi-led main yatra at various points.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath will also stay with Rahul Gandhi throughout the yatra’s MP leg. Kamal Nath said, “We have received over 1500 applications from people who want to meet Rahul Gandhi but depending on the time constraints, we are working out who can walk along, who will have meetings”.
Focus on social harmony and unemployment
Some who might walk a short distance with Gandhi tentatively include tribal victims of atrocities, victims of hate crimes and violence, as well as women’s groups working against rising crimes against women, said Congress leaders. The Madhya Pradesh leg of the yatra will also focus on issues pertaining to social harmony and unemployment with Rahul Gandhi scheduled to meet a group of youth who had held a 15-day ‘Bharti Satyagraha’ in Indore demanding jobs and filling of backlog vacancies in the government.
Among those who are also expected to meet Rahul Gandhi include people displaced by the construction of various dams, including Sardar Sarovar, tribals who were displaced by the relocation of African cheetahs, people who would be displaced if diamond mining is allowed in Buxwaha, banana farmers of Burhanpur, those who participated in the 2020-21 farmers’ protest, Maheshwari saree weavers from Maheshwar, along with women from various self-help groups and the eunuch community of Indore.
Senior Congress leader Sobha Oza said, “The Yatra has a festive mood. Everyone wants to meet Rahul Gandhi and express their concerns. We’ll allow all such people time to walk with Rahul Gandhi, and interact with him during various nukkad sabhas.”
The initial plan also included a visit to Dargah-e-Hakimi in the Burhanpur district, one of the holiest places of Dawoodi bohra Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, and Gurudwara Badi Sangat Sahib, but had to be dropped after the yatra’s entry into MP was delayed by two days.
Tantya Bhil, Ambedkar and Shiv Mahapurana Katha
After entering Burhanpur where Rahul Gandhi will meet banana farmers and those who were actively involved in the three farm protests, he will move on to visit the birthplace of tribal icon Tantya Bhil in Khandwa. Tantya Bhil belonged to the Bhil subcaste of the Adivasi community which accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the 1.53 crore Adivasi population of the state. The sub-caste is also known as India’s Robin Hood.
The yatra will then move on to Indore where a specially-composed song by music composer Vishal Bhardwaj and written by Gulzar will be released on November 26, the day India’s Constitution was adopted. It will then reach Mhow and offer Gandhi will offer tribute to Ambedkar at his birthplace.
The yatra will also visit Shiv Mahapurana Katha by Pandit Pradeep Mishra and a cultural programme by Nehru stadium before entering the Ujjain district. In Ujjain, as per the tentative plan, the yatra will pay a courtesy visit to Jain Swami Prayagji Maharaj and offers prayers at the Mahakaleshwar temple and also plant saplings in the temple premises before finally heading to the Agar Malwa district to cross over to Rajasthan.
The yatra, which had first planned to enter Burhanpur on November 20, was rescheduled with Rahul Gandhi all set to campaign for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections.
Even before the yatra is about to enter MP, speculation about Congress MLAs defecting to the BJP is rife. Reacting to these rumours, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh pointed out, “Do they (BJP) have a shortage of money? I had also received some information that an Indore-based industrialist met with Amit Shah claiming that he can do some ‘jod-tod‘. They (BJP) have looted this Pradesh and this is how you spend the money gained from such loot.”
Singh added all MLAs are in touch with them and those who were betrayers have left and those who wanted to stay with us are with the party.
Meanwhile, Kamal Nath dismissed the defection speculation and said, “There are two to three BJP MLAs who are in touch with me because they feel the BJP might not give them a ticket. But there would be a reason that the BJP has decided to drop them so why should we take them? Besides, our priority is our workers. Similarly, there are those who defected from Congress and are now hoping that they might be taken back and given tickets again, but even in such cases, why should we upset the local workers and local units.”
The Congress has also accused the BJP and its administrators of using various ways of prohibiting the outreach of the yatra.
Congress spokesperson Ajay Yadav pointed out that soon after the yatra schedule was released which mentioned Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Ujjain’s Mahakal Temple, the temple management committee prohibited photography inside the garbha griha and Nandi Hall.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra dismissed the Congress’s allegations stating that the management committee has made the decision on its own.
The administrator of the temple management committee, Sandeep Soni, while speaking to The Indian Express said, “The decision to prohibit the use of cell phones was taken to clear the crowd from the garbha griha and Nandi hall much faster. There was also this problem of people making reels and then adding songs as the background which might hurt sentiments.”
Another official from the temple management committee said, “The decision was for the general public while the VVIPs can always apply and permission for pictures will be granted. The premises of the temple are for all and above such politics.”
Several BJP leaders, including Home Minister Mishra, Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang, and Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel, have criticised the yatra. “During the 2018 Assembly polls, Rahul Gandhi had promised that if farmer loans are not waived off in 10 days, we’ll change the chief minister. But neither were the loans waived off nor was the CM changed,” Patel told reporters in the Chhindwara district.
Digvijaya Singh reacting to the BJP’s criticism of Rahul Gandhi and the yatra said, “The BJP choose to criticise Rahul Gandhi because, within a month of the yatra, Mohan Bhagwat has started going to madrasas and masjids. In a few days, Modi ji will also start wearing a skull cap. When he goes to a Muslim state, he wears a skullcap but doesn’t wear it here soon he will start doing it here as well. Mahamantri of RSS and number 4 has said that the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer. This he said is the impact within two months. Just wait and see what happens when the yatra reaches Srinagar.”