The party will launch the nationwide Bharat Jodo padyatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on September 7 which will be led by Rahul Gandhi and see participation of all party leaders. The 3,500 km long yatra will criss-cross through 12 states and 2 UTs. A report by Amit Agnihotri
Looking at the party’s national revival and to take on the Centre ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has decided to hit the streets in September.
The Congress will launch the nationwide Bharat Jodo campaign on Sep 7, which will be led by Rahul Gandhi and see participation of all leaders, weeks after the party’s state units staged 75 km mini-yatras in all districts to mark 75 years of Independence.
The party will also protest against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme from August 15 across the country.
Earlier, the Congress had announced at the Udaipur Chintan Shivir held from May 13-15 that the party will launch the nationwide Kanyakumari to Kashmir padyatra on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, against the BJP’s alleged divisive politics.
The party advanced the Bharat Jodo yatra as it feels that the recent nation-wide protests over the ED summons for the Gandhi family and over issues like price rise and unemployment have charged up the party workers.
The 3,500 km long yatra will criss-cross through 12 states and 2 UTs over a span of 150 days and is expected to keep up the momentum generated over the past two months of protests.
The Congress has been alleging over the past months that the Gandhi family was being targeted by the ED after the party announced plans to launch the Bharat Jodo yatra as part of the Udaipur declaration finalised after three days of brainstorming by over 400 leaders to prepare a strategy for the 2024 national elections.
Rahul Gandhi had flagged the need for the grand old party to get into an agitation mode and go back to the people to counter the ruling BJP.
In June when Rahul was questioned by the ED, the entire Congress came out on streets. Later, when Sonia Gandhi was questioned in July, Rahul led the protests.
On August 5, when the Congress staged nationwide protests over issues like price rise and unemployment, Rahul led the march of party MPs from Parliament to the Rashtrapati Bhavan while his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led a Congress protest march to the PM’s house over price rise and unemployment issues.
The sibling duo, along with senior leaders, was detained by the police, who allegedly manhandled Priyanka during the protests.
As the videos of Priyanka’s manhandling by the police went viral, the action was strongly criticized by the Congress as well as the other parties.
Before the protests, Rahul Gandhi slammed the ruling BJP/RSS saying the country was witnessing an “onset of dictatorship and death of democracy.”
“Are you enjoying the onset of dictatorship in India? What we are witnessing is the death of democracy. What India built over centuries ago is being destroyed. It is a dictatorship of four people. Anybody against this onset of dictatorship is put in jail. There is no debate in Parliament. The sole agenda of the government is that people’s issues should not be debated,” Rahul said at a presser.
“The government’s focus is just on 2-3 big business people,” he said.
Rahul said that he was being targeted for speaking truth to power.
“The more I speak the truth, the more I will be attacked. I feel joy when I am attacked as it helps me understand the battlefield. I am not afraid, I will stand for democracy and raise the people’s issues,” he said.
Targeting the Centre, Rahul said: “Those who have fear, threaten others. They fear the condition of the country today and the false promises they made to the people because they lie to people,” he said.
Later, Rahul responded to the sealing of the Young Indian offices, which owns the National Herald, saying he was not afraid of PM Modi and home minister Amit Shah and would keep on fighting the ideology of the BJP.
At a time when the Congress was battling against ED raids, ally Shiv Sena supported the grand old party. Former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who has recently become the editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, praised Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra over the way they led the protests and slammed parties like NCP and TMC for not joining the Congress’ agitation over price rise and unemployment on August 5.
He also targeted the TMC for not supporting the joint opposition candidate for the vice-presidential polls Margaret Alva over a small issue. Thackeray alleged that the central agencies were being used to target the opposition parties and weaken the opposition unity. Yet, the opposition parties were not together and distanced themselves from the Congress agitation, which was not a healthy sign for democracy.
Thackeray said the Sena was also fighting against the misuse of ED against senior party leader Sanjay Raut, who has been arrested in a case. Thackeray who lost his chief ministerial post recently as a party rebel Eknath Shinde took the office with support of BJP, alleged that the ED played a role in the episode.
According to Congress insiders they also want to counter the BJP’s version of nationalism by highlighting the role of the Congress in the country’s freedom struggle and therefore had announced the nationwide yatra on Aug 9, the anniversary of the Quit India movement started in 1942 by Mahatma Gandhi.
“On this day, 80 years ago, the Indian National Congress under the leadership and inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi launched the “Bharat Chhodo” movement that won our country freedom five years later. Today the Indian National Congress announces the launch of its Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra from September 7th, 2022,” Congress communications in charge Jairam Ramesh said.
“This is a padyatra throughout twelve states and 2 Union Territories. It will be about 3500 km long and will be completed in about 150 days. Congress workers and leaders including Rahul Gandhi will participate in the yatra,” he said.
Recently, the Congress leaders changed their social media DPs to a picture of first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru holding the Indian flag in an attempt to counter the BJP’s “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign to mark 75 years of Independence.
The party also made an “appeal to all wanting to be part of a gigantic national endeavour to provide an alternative to the politics of fear, bigotry and prejudice and to the economics of livelihood destruction, increasing unemployment and growing inequalities to participate in the Bharat Jodo Yatra.”
The Congress had pressed for a debate over these issues during the monsoon session of Parliament, which was adjourned on Aug 8 four days ahead of schedule.
Before the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the various state units of Congress carried out mini-yatras, dubbed as “Azadi ki Gaurav Yatra”, which covered around 75 kms across all districts under their jurisdiction.
During the Azadi Gaurav yatra, Congress workers and leaders celebrated the political milestone, highlighted the grand old party’s role in the freedom struggle and used the foot marches as public outreach events.
“We told people about the role of Congress in the country’s freedom struggle. You can’t separate the Congress and the freedom struggle. We told them about the work the party did since Independence. In contrast, we also told the people that the Centre has done nothing over the past eight years except for carrying forward the previous UPA government’s schemes,” AICC secretary in charge of organization Qazi Mohammed Nizamuddin said.
Party insiders said that the June and July nationwide protests over ED summons for party chief Sonia Gandhi and former chief Rahul Gandhi and the August 5 agitation over price rise and unemployment issues have galvanized the party workers and the leaders alike. The recent protests, they acknowledged, had been qualitatively different from the past agitations over various public issues.
Qazi, a former Uttarakhand MLA, said that though the Congress had been protesting over public issues in the states over the past years, the grand old party was going into the Azadi Gaurav Yatra with a “renewed energy and resolve.” “The recent protests have certainly charged up the party. We have to prepare for the future challenges,” he said.