Rahul Gandhi kicked off the congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ on Wednesday as he joined other party leaders and workers to start the demonstration in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Ahead of the acclaimed 3,570 km yatra, Gandhi also paid a visit to the Vivekananda monument in the coastal town. While Congress leaders have denied any political side of this initiative, many see it as the party’s efforts to strengthen its base to tackle the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
At a celebration gathering in Kanyakumari, Rahul Gandhi said, “It gives me great joy to start Bharat Jodo Yatra from this beautiful place. The national flag represents the religion and language of every person living in this country. They (BJP & RSS) think this flag is their personal property.”
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Gandhi accused the BJP-RSS of dividing the country along religious lines, adding that every institution of the country is under attack for also seeking people’s support to keep the country united.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi called ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ a milestone of the party and said she was confident that the initiative will rejuvenate the organization. “I will participate daily in mind and spirit,” she added.
Earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi attended a prayer meeting at the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur, where the former prime minister was killed in a suicide bombing in 1991. The Wayanad MP also paid floral tribute to his father and sat in front of the memorial for about 25 minutes.
He later wrote on Twitter: “I lost my father to the politics of hatred and division. Nor will I lose my beloved country to it. Love will conquer hate. Hope will defeat fear. Together we will win.”
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Gandhi was welcomed by the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, who had also joined the congress leader for the prayer meeting at the Gandhi monument.
In a symbolic gesture of the beginning of Bharat Jodo Yatra, MK Stalin had also handed the national flag to Rahul Gandhi as both leaders saluted the tricolor.
The yatra officially begins at 7 a.m. Thursday, when congressional leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, begin the journey on foot.
The yatra that started in Kanyakumari will then proceed north through Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Nilambur, Mysuru, Bellary, Raichur, Vikarabad, Nanded, Jalgaon, Indore, Kota, Dausa, Alwar, Bulandshahr, Delhi, Ambala, Pathankot, Jammu, and culminate in srinagar.
(With input from the agency)