A day before the Congress officially launches its official tagline and logo of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, former party chief Rahul Gandhi on August 22 told members of civil society organisations that the yatra was like a ‘tapasya’ for him and he was ready for a ‘long battle’.
The 3,500 km-long Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir yatra will start on September 7 and will continue for 150 days and cover 12 States and two Union Territories.
Ahead of the yatra, civil society activists, including Aruna Roy, Yogendra Yadav, Syeda Hameed, Sharad Behar, P.V. Rajgopal, Bezwada Wilson, Devanoora Mahadeva and G.N. Devy, had convened a ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra Conclave’.
Over 150 civil society organisations, movements, professionals and unions participated in the closed-door meet where Mr. Gandhi and his other party colleagues, Digvijaya Singh and Jairam Ramesh, fielded various questions on the yatra, its objectives among other things.
Interacting with civil society members, Mr. Gandhi is said to have told them that he looked at the yatra both as political as well as a ‘tapasya’ for him.
“I know uniting India [’Bharat Jodo’] is going to be a long battle and I am ready for it,” Mr. Gandhi was quoted as saying by one of the participant.
Asserting that the politics had become “polarised”, the former Congress chief said the idea of undertaking the yatra was to contrast the ‘divisive ideology’ of the Sangh with that of the Congress that stood for uniting everyone.
“We are starting this journey with the belief that the people of India want the politics of uniting, not dividing,” he was quoted as saying.
The source cited above claimed that a few participants also asked the Congress leaders about their stand on various issues, including communalism.
Speaking to reporters, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said Mr. Gandhi spent almost 90 minutes interacting with about 150 civil society organisations drawn from 21-22 States.
“He [Gandhi] answered questions from 35-40 people. He had no notes or pad in his hands, and definitely no tele-prompter,” Mr. Ramesh said.
He said that Mr. Gandhi identified three main pillars of the Bharat Jodo Yatra —economic, social and the political. While the country faced economic challenges like inflation, unemployment and concentration of economic wealth and regional disparities, Mr. Gandhi pointed to the growing polarisation on the basis of caste, religion, dress, food and language.
The former Congress chief also talked about political challenges on account of the growing use of the Centre’s institutions and complete weakening of the States.
“It is a political yatra in a non-partisan way. We have appealed to other political parties, civil society groups and individuals who are worried, concerned, anguished and pained at the current state of the Indian democracy, society and economy to participate in the yatra,” Mr. Ramesh.