Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra from the southernmost tip of mainland India to the top.
The Congress is undertaking a months-long march called the Bharat Jodo Yatra to regain its political foothold in the country.
The name translates loosely to “march to unite India”.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is leading it across states and Union Territories from the southernmost tip of mainland India to the top.
He is accompanied by several Congress leaders — depending on which state or UT he is in — as he makes his way across the country.
Throughout, he is conversing with the people on the road, and looking to build support to take on the BJP at the Central as well as state levels.
According to its official website, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is “a movement to march against the neglect of people’s aspirations” by the Central government.
The website says: “The socio-cultural fabric of India has been torn apart by divisive forces. Our economy is collapsing. Price rise and unemployment have turned people’s hope into despair. Political centralization of power has decimated our democracy.”
It adds that the yatra aims to “unite the voices of the people of India” against injustice.
It was the Congress that led the battle against the British, and it will be the Congress that will unite the country again “in this fight against the politics of hate and bigotry”, says the website.
The yatra started on 7 September from the Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
It is expected to cover 3,570 km — through 12 states and two UTs — over a period of 150 days.
Leading it, Rahul Gandhi is walking six-seven hours every day over five months to cover the total distance.
The yatra’s website said “people from across India, political parties, social activists, intellectuals, writers, artists and other eminent personalities” would join the yatra.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the principal aim of the march was to unite the country against the Narendra Modi regime, which caused “severe economic and livelihood destruction, heightened unemployment and inequalities, and fuelled hatred and divisions among communities”.
Rahul Gandhi began the Bharat Jodo Yatra on 7 September with a diatribe against corporate entities.
He said: “A handful of large businesses control the whole country today.”
The MP from Wayanad in Kerala added: “The prime minister is highly dependent on them for his survival. These handful of corporates are projecting images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi round the clock through television channels and denying any kind of reportage on the farm sector crisis, growing unemployment and price of rice.”
On the second day, he met the family of Anita, a NEET aspirant who died by suicide in 2017. He also continued to interact with people along the road.
Day 3 saw Rahul Gandhi say that the people of the country should restart their conversations.
“India is a conversation between its people. That conversation has broken down. And since the conversation has broken down, India has broken down. That conversation needs to restart,” he said, suggesting that the Congress’ padayatra would enable the conversation on the ground.
Rahul Gandhi ended the Tamil Nadu leg of the yatra on the fourth day, having interacted with youngsters amid jocular jabs from an NREGA that he marry a Tamil girl.
As the yatra entered Kerala on Day 5, Rahul Gandhi witnessed the first instances of political resistance, with the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) objecting to his stay at a school.
This is the same SFI whose cadres vandalised his office in Wayanad earlier this year.
On Day 6, Rahul Gandhi preferred to focus on the coastal climate crisis in the Thiruvananthapuram region and the human factors that aggravate them.
People sought his support for the ongoing fish workers’ strike against the under-construction multi-crore international seaport at Vizhinjam, promoted by corporate giant Adani.
This, even as former Congress detractor Yogendra Yadav joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra, with a special message for the Gandhi scion.
The next day, Rahul Gandhi — among other things — interacted with people who said they were affected by the LDF government’s controversial multi-crore Silverline Semi-High Speed Railway Project.
Meanwhile, bruises and blisters seem to be no deterrent to those walking along Rahul, as they rest in modified containers and brave the elements.