The stage is set for Rahul Gandhi to launch the Congress’s 3,570-km Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari on Wednesday, with the party describing the march as its biggest mass-contact programme to date.
The avowed objective of the Yatra is to unite the country and rally the common people against the “prevailing politics of fear, bigotry and prejudice” besides flagging the problems of increasing unemployment, rising prices and growing inequalities.
Just ahead of the launch of the Yatra, Rahul Gandhi will take part in a prayer meeting at his father and ex-prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial in Sriperumbudur. Rahul will then attend an event in Kanyakumari, where Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel will be present. The former Congress chief will be handed over a khadi national flag there.
Rahul along with his fellow Yatris and other Congress leaders will then walk to the venue of the public rally from where the yatra will be formally taken out.
In a video message, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has urged the people to join the Yatra wherever possible. She asserted that the Yatra is needed as negative politics is being practised in the country and real public issues not discussed.
The 3,570-km Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir will cover 12 states and two Union Territories in about five months.
Rahul, who along with his fellow marchers will walk “all the way” to Srinagar, has said that with all means of reaching the public, including media and Parliament, having been allegedly made “dysfunctional” by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, the Congress has been left with no option but to go to the people directly and apprise them of the truth of the prevailing situation.
The Congress general secretary in-charge of communications, Jairam Ramesh, has said that there is a need for the Bharat Jodo Yatra because the country is being divided. “The first reason for the division is economic disparities, the second being social polarisation and the third political centralisation as states’ rights are being snatched away. So it is important to unite the country now. If not now, then when,” he said.
Meanwhile, over 200 civil society members have reportedly appealed to the people to support the Congress’s Yatra and similar initiatives by any other organisation to defend against the “systematic assault” on the unity and democracy of India.
The objective of the march is to “stir the conscience of the people in times when the constitutional values and democratic norms are being brazenly undermined” and the very idea of India has come under a “systematic assault”, they said in a statement.
“Never before have an overwhelming majority of the farmers and workers, Dalits and Adivasis, women and religious minorities faced such effective exclusion in the shaping of the nation’s future,” they alleged. “Every one of us needs to say: No, not on my conscience. At stake is our unique pluralistic social fabric, which is our greatest civilisational inheritance, reflected in our Constitution.”
They appealed to the people: “Let us all make Bharat Jodo Yatra the decisive step towards renewing our pledge to reclaim an India that is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic with liberty, equality, justice and fraternity as its guiding lights.”
Swaraj India founder Yogendra Yadav, documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, All India Secular Front’s Anil Sadgopal, rights activist Anjali Bharadwaj, theatre personality Anuradha Kapur, journalist Mrinal Pande, former MP Dharamveer Gandhi and ex-IAS officers Abhijit Sengupta and Sujata Rao are among the 204 civil society members who are signatories to this appeal.