Leading Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi calls for defending Tricolour

Former Congress chief says the National Flag and its values are under attack

Updated - September 21, 2022 06:33 pm IST

Published - September 07, 2022 10:44 pm IST - Kanniyakumari

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speaks at the launch of the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kanniyakumari on September 7, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@MahilaCongress

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speaks at the launch of the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kanniyakumari on September 7, 2022. Photo: Twitter/@MahilaCongress

The National Flag and the values it embodied are under attack from the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which not only divide people on the basis of religion and language but also treat the Tricolour as their “personal property”, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, formally launching Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kanniyakumari on Wednesday.

“This flag guarantees every single person Indian protection in this country. It guarantees every single person a free and fair life in this country. It guarantees everybody the right to practise every religion, to speak every language that one desires. And today, brothers and sisters, this flag is under attack,” Mr. Gandhi said at a public rally.

“Please remember it is not enough to just salute the flag, it is important to defend the ideas and the values behind the flag,” he added.

‘Headed for bad times’

The former Congress chief also claimed that India is facing its worst-ever economic crisis along with the highest unemployment rate ever and “the country is headed towards a disaster and bad times”. The 3,500-km Kanniyakumari-to-Kashmir padayatra (foot march), to be spread over five months across 12 States and two Union Territories, is the most ambitious project of the Congress to reconnect with the masses and recover its lost political ground.

The Congress has not only lost two successive Lok Sabha elections (in 2014 and 2019) but also 39 of the 49 Assembly elections in the past eight years.

“This is a landmark occasion for our great party with such a glorious legacy — the Indian National Congress. I am confident that our organisation will be rejuvenated. It is also a transformational moment in Indian politics,” party president Sonia Gandhi said in a speech that was read out in the rally.

The actual padayatra from southernmost tip of the Indian mainland will start on Thursday but it was launched with the symbolic gesture of DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin handing over the National Flag to Mr. Gandhi and then both the leaders saluting the Tricolour to convey the theme of unity.

Mr. Stalin tweeted, “Today, my brother @RahulGandhi has begun a journey to retrieve India’s soul, to uphold the lofty ideals of our republic and to unite our country’s people with love. There can be no better place than Kumari, where the Statue of Equality stands tall, to start #BharatJodoYatra.”

Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot, his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel, and other senior leaders were present at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial where a prayer meeting was held.

Mr. Gandhi had also visited the iconic Vivekananda Rock Memorial and paid floral tributes at the giant Tiruvalluvar statue at Kanniyakumari.

He started the day with a prayer meeting at the Rajiv Gandhi memorial at Siriperumbudur, the spot close to Chennai, where his father was assassinated by LTTE suicide bombers.

“I lost my father to the politics of hate and division. I will not lose my beloved country to it too. Love will conquer hate. Hope will defeat fear. Together, we will overcome,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted.

In the evening, addressing a rally that saw an impressive turnout, Mr. Gandhi explained the need for Bharat Jodo Yatra. “It is very important that we bring the people of India together and make sure they are united so that India remains strong. And that is the aim of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ which is designed to listen to the people of India,” he said.

Along with him, 118 party workers and leaders, classified as Bharat yatris, will walk the entire distance of 3,570 km and will cover a distance of 22-25 km on an average every day. The yatra not only seeks to highlight the “socially divisive agenda of the Narendra Modi government and the BJP” but also issues like inflation and unemployment ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

“Today every single institution is under attack by the BJP. They think that this flag is their personal property. They think they can single-handedly determine the future of this country and the future of the States of this country. They think they can frighten the opposition using the ED, CBI, Income Tax [department]. The problem is that they do not understand the Indian people. The Indian people do not get scared. It doesn’t matter how many hours of interrogation they do... not a single opposition leader is going to be scared of the BJP,” Mr. Gandhi said.

“The BJP thinks it can divide the country on the lines of religion and language, but the country will always remain united,” he added.

The former Congress chief alleged that the BJP government had systematically attacked farmers, labourers and small and medium businesses.

“A handful of large businesses control the entire country today. Ports, airports, coal, power, telecom, and every single industry is controlled by a handful of businessmen. The Prime Minister would not last one day without their support. They control the media and they ensure that the Prime Minister is on the television screen all day. And in exchange, the Prime Minister carries out policies that are in their interest,” Mr. Gandhi alleged.

“The idea is very similar to what the British used to do. Divide India, make Indians fight with each other and then steal from the Indian people. Those days it used to be called the East India Company. It was one company that controlled all of India. Today, there are three-four companies that control the whole of India,” he added.

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