In a show of Opposition strength, leaders of several national and regional parties on January 30 braved snowfall and bone-chilling cold to share the stage with Congress leaders at a rally organised to mark the culmination of the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar.
The Congress rally was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium amid tight security and heavy snowfall.
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Besides Congress president Mallikarjun Karge and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Wayanad Lok Sabha MP was also joined by leaders from the DMK, the JMM, the BSP, the NC, the PDP, the CPI, the RSP, the VCK and the IUML.
Addressing the rally to mark the Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra, CPI leader D. Raja urged all secular parties of the country to unite.
“We all fought together for the independence of the country and liberated the country from British Raj. All secular parties must come together to liberate the country from BJP Raj,” he said.
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National Confrence (NC) leader Omar Abdullah asked former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to undertake another yatra from west to east of the country.
“On this last function of the yatra, I congratulate Gandhi on behalf of myself, my father and my party. This yatra has been successful. This yatra has shown that there are people in the country who like the BJP but there are also those who like the other idea which is of brotherhood,” he said.
“I request Rahul Gandhi to undertake a yatra from west to east. I would like to walk with him,” Mr. Abdullah added.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the country sees a ray of hope in Mr. Gandhi.
RSP leader Premchandran declared his party’s solidarity with the Congress leader. “A historic movement was undertaken. Rahul Gandhi has proved that he is the right leader to fight against these divisive forces,” he said.
During the course of the yatra, Mr. Rahul Gandhi addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings, 13 press conferences. He had over 275 planned walking interactions and more than 100 sitting interactions.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Gandhi hoisted the national flag at the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ camp site at in Panthachowk.
With the rally, the curtains have come down on the yatra that traversed a dozen states and two Union territories in nearly five months after its launch on September 7 last year in Kanyakumari.
Aim of Yatra is to save liberal, secular ethos of India: Rahul
Speaking at the rally, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the aim of his Bharat Jodo Yatra was to save the liberal and secular ethos of the country which, he claimed, was facing an assault from the BJP and the RSS.
“I have not done this [Yatra] for myself or for the Congress but for the people of the country. Our aim is to stand against the ideology that wants to destroy the foundation of this country,” he said.
The rally went ahead despite heavy snowfall in the city. Mr. Gandhi said the RSS and the BJP were targeting the liberal and secular ethos of the country by inciting violence.
Recalling the moments when he was informed about the assassination of his grandmother and father — former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — over phone calls, the former Congress president said the inciters of violence will never understand that pain.
“Those who incite violence — like Modiji, Amit Shahji, the BJP and the RSS — will never understand this pain. The family of an Army man will understand, the family of the CRPF personnel who were killed in Pulwama will understand, Kashmiris will understand that pain when one gets that call.
“The aim of the yatra is to end the phone calls announcing the deaths of loved ones — be it a soldier, a CRPF jawan or any Kashmiri,” he added.
Mr. Gandhi challenged the BJP top brass to undertake a yatra like his in Jammu and Kashmir, saying they will never do it as they are scared.
“I can guarantee you that no BJP leader can walk like this in Jammu and Kashmir. They will not do it, not because they won’t be allowed to but because they are scared,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi said he was advised against walking the Jammu and Kashmir lap on the grounds that he might be attacked.
“I thought over it and then decided that I will walk in my home and with my people [in J&K]. Why not give them [his enemies] a chance to change the colour of my shirt, let them make it red.
“The people of Kashmir did not give me hand grenades, only their hearts full of love,” he said.