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Rahul Yatra’s Kerala leg: Stays on message against RSS, ignores Left barbs, boost for Cong

Saw divided party, in Opposition for second time in state, close ranks, mobilise workers in large numbers for march. The task: how to sustain the momentum

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with former Kerela chief minister Oommen Chandy and others during the party's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', in Chungathara, Kerala. (PTI Photo)

The Kerala leg of the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which concluded on Thursday, made news throughout the 18 days it was in the coastal state, with the party’s rivals BJP and CPI(M) launching attacks on it and Rahul Gandhi. From criticism of the yatra route to using VD Savarkar’s photo in a banner, the foot march often drew the Opposition’s ire.

But for the party, which is now in the Opposition in Kerala for the second straight term, the yatra helped the party put aside the factionalism in the state unit, rev up its organisational machinery, and mobilise workers in large numbers to walk along with Rahul starting September 10, the day the yatra entered Kerala from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. The party is now faced with the task of maintaining the momentum the yatra has infused in the state unit.

The Left, which is in power in the state, took a dig at the yatra as it made its way up the state towards Karnataka. The CPI(M) asked why Rahul was planning to tour UP only for two days while the Kerala leg stretched for more than two weeks. The party linked it to the Congress’s alleged reluctance to take on the BJP and accused Rahul of “weakening the Opposition” nationally.

The CPI(M) state unit took a step back only after the party’s central leadership took the stand that the yatra was an internal matter of the Congress. But the state CPI(M)’s allegations got a boost last week when Savarkar’s image was seen in a banner welcoming Rahul to Kochi. The party suspended the party worker behind it but the CPI(M) alleged that it illustrated Rahul’s “soft Hindutva line”.

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At the start of the yatra, the Congress was left scrambling in Thiruvananthapuram after Rahul failed to turn up for a scheduled visit to a private hospital to inaugurate memorials to freedom fighters K E Mamman and Gopinathan Nair. The yatra passed in front of the hospital, with senior Congress leaders including Shashi Tharoor, waiting at the inaugural venue. But, he skipped it, leaving the state leadership to apologise to the organisers.

Later, three Congress workers in Kollam district were suspended from the party for allegedly vandalising a vegetable shop after its owner allegedly failed to cough up the donation demanded by them for the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Despite the criticisms and attacks, Rahul did not mention the CPI(M). In his public addresses at the end of each day, the former Congress president and Wayanad MP kept his message to building bridges among people, the “divisive politics” of the BJP, the need to shun hatred, and issues such as price rise. Every day, he interacted with people from various segments of society, including fishermen, cashew workers, MGNREGS workers, farmers, and representatives of trade bodies.

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On Thursday, he tweeted, “Home is where you get love, and Kerala is home for me. No matter how much affection I give, I always get more in return from the people here. I am forever indebted. Thank you. I would also like to wholeheartedly thank the Congress & UDF leaders and workers, Kerala police, media personnel & every individual who has been part of the #BharatJodoYatra in this beautiful state. The support you have given us makes our resolve firmer & our strides stronger.”

First published on: 30-09-2022 at 07:51:03 pm
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