Congress is trying to signal “economic inequalities, social polarization and political centralization” while trying to make a profit in what is often described as a “battle of ideologies”.
Before the launch of the rally at the seaside venue, Rahul Gandhi attended a prayer meeting at the Rajiv Gandhi monument in Sriperumbudur. In a symbolic gesture of the start of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, the President of DMK and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, handed the national flag to Rahul Gandhi and both leaders saluted the tricolor signifying the broad theme of unity. The chief ministers of Rajasthan and Chattisgarh respectively, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel and Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President KS Alagiri participated in the prayer session, underlining national unity and brotherhood. Popular patriotic songs like Mahakavi Bharathi’s ‘Parukkuley Nalla Nadu’ (Our land Bharat, the great), ‘Engum Shanti Nilavu Vendum’ (Let peace reign everywhere), and ‘Raghupathi Ragava Rajaram’ were sung.
Sources said a message from congress president Sonia Gandhi could be read or a video message from her could be shown during the event. Sonia Gandhi’s mother recently passed away in Italy. Both she and party secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are abroad. Rahul Gandhi arrived in Chennai on Tuesday evening.
Jairam Ramesh, the congress general secretary in charge of communications, said the Yatra is a “transformative moment for Indian politics and a defining moment for the rejuvenation of the party”.
A final check of the preparations at the site near the Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam was made by Secretaries General KC Venugopal and Ramesh along with senior leader and Yatra organizing panel responsible Digvijaya Singh.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement among conference staff across India. Even in states where the Yatra doesn’t get through, people are excited. In each state, Congress will host similar Yatras on a smaller scale, perhaps 50km or 100km with the main theme of uniting India, an India torn by economic inequalities, social polarization and overcentralization,” Ramesh told news agency PTI. .
In an apparent dig at the government, Ramesh said it will not be a yatra of speeches where announcements are made. Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by 118 leaders, will communicate with several groups, he said. “The party aims to make Bharat Jodo Yatra successful as it is the largest mass mobilization program it has undertaken in Independent India.”
“It is the longest yatra the party has undertaken. It is a turning point in the political history of India. Padyatras have a meaning of their own and this is transformational politics. This is what politics is about, not abuse, vendetta and slander,” he said.
Ramesh tagged a report on a meeting of top BJP leaders in Delhi on Tuesday, tweeting: “The launch of the Congress Bharat Jodo Yatra tomorrow from Kanyakumari has clearly sent a strong message to the ruling establishment. When they can’t meet the deadlines, they resort to headline management!”
In a video message, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra urged people to join the Yatra whenever possible. She claimed that the Yatra was necessary because “negative politics were practiced in the country and real issues were not discussed”. It is meant to draw attention to people’s problems, such as price increases and unemployment, she said.
Although the march, which spans 12 states and two Union Territories in about five months, was formally launched during the rally, it will begin this Thursday at 7 a.m., when Rahul Gandhi and other congressional leaders begin the march.
Before the launch, Rahul Gandhi visited the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, the Thiruvalluvar Statue and the Kamaraj Memorial in Kanyakumari. He has said that with all paths blocked, Congress must now go to the people and tell them the truth, which is why the party is undertaking the Yatra.
“The government has blocked all roads for us… Congress leaders, opposition and people cannot make speeches in parliament. Our microphone is off. We want to talk about China’s attack, but we can’t. We want to talk about unemployment and inflation, but we can’t,” Gandhi said at the Mehngai Par Halla Bol Rally on Sunday.
“There is an attack on our institutions, be it the media, the election commission or the judiciary. There is pressure. All roads are closed to us. There was only one way left, to go to the people. The truth of the country must be told to the people, which is why the party is undertaking the Yatra,” he said.
The march will be in two parts from 7:00 AM to 10:30 AM and from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM. While the morning session will have fewer participants, the evening session will mobilize massively. The participants plan to walk about 22 to 23 km daily. Congress has claimed that his Yatra is not a ‘Mann Ki Baat’ but to ensure that the concerns of the people reach Delhi.
It has 119 leaders including Rahul Gandhi classified as ‘Bharat Yatris’ who will walk the entire route. About 30 percent of the ‘Bharat Yatris’ are women. The average age of Bharat Yatris is 38. About 50,000 citizens have also registered to participate in the Yatra. To coincide with the launch of the Yatra on Wednesday, ‘Prarthana Sabhas’ will be held by congressional state units at 5 p.m., a leader said. On Thursday at 7 am, 10 km of foot marches will be held at the block level.
After reaching Kerala on September 11, the Yatra will travel across the state for the next 18 days, reaching Karnataka on September 30. He will be in Karnataka for 21 days before heading north. It goes through Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Nilambur, Mysuru, Bellary, Raichur, Vikarabad, Nanded, Jalgaon, Indore, Kota, Dausa, Alwar, Bulandshahr, Delhi, Ambala, Pathankot, Jammu and ends in Srinagar.
(with input of PTI)
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