Is it an attempt to revive the dying grand old Congress party or yet another attempt to re-launch Rahul Gandhi? Is to market him before the party president elections to avoid non-Gandhi family men to throw their hats into the ring.
Rahul Gandhi kick started his 3,500-km march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on September 8. He plans to complete it in 150 days and cover as many as 12 states. From Kerala, the Yatra will traverse through the state for the next 18 days, reaching Karnataka on September 30. It will be in Karnataka for 21 days before moving north. The Padyatra (March) will cover a distance of 25 km every day.
The yatra has air-conditioned high end luxury 60 caravans for Rahul and 120 accompanying senior leaders, security, assistants, over 10 containers and an ambulance, The caravans have facilities like a ten star hotel with conference hall, separate caravan for women, sleepers like in trains, bath rooms. Six course delectable food morning breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, prepared by over 100 cooks, to over 1000 people. The Congress wants to spend Rs. 150 crore for this yatra which is to be bored by the CMs of congress ruling states. There are also charges of Rahul Gandhi is wearing London made (Burberry) T shirts each costing over Rs. 41,000 and costly sports shoes.
There are several parallels between Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Yatra in 1983 that former PM and ‘young Turk’ Chandra Shekhar, undertook it almost four decades ago against Rahul’s grandmother and then PM Indira Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi said that the spirit of the Bharat Jodo Yatra is to bring Indians together irrespective of religion, community and remind them that this is one country and it will be successful if we stand together and are respectful towards each other.
Rahul Gandhi who earlier said “his gotra is Dattatreya who are Kauls. Kauls are Kashmiri Brahmin”, felt it important not to visit the famous Bhagavathi Amman temple but stayed in all Christian run educational institutions and met pastors like George Ponniah who made degrading comments on Hinduism, the prime minister, Home Minister and Bharat Mata. He discussed with them on matters related Christianity.
Rahul met controversial priest George Ponnaiah. The video clip of his interaction with the pastor went viral in which Rahul can be heard asking “Jesus Christ is a form of God? George Ponnaiah said “He is the real God. God reveals himself as a man, a real person…not like Shakthi. So we see a human person”. BJP national spokesman Shehzad Poonawalla reacted by saying “Bharat Jodo with Bharat Todo icons”. RSS joint secretary Manmohan Vaidya took seriously congress posting a picture showing Sangh’s uniform Khaki shorts on fire. He questioned “is that they went on to connect the nation through hatred “ . Congress claimed the yatra is being undertaken to free the nation from the shackles of hate and undo the damage done by BJP-RSS”.
True to this, Rahul Gandhi never missed a chance to attack RSS-BJP during his yatra. He deliberately neglected his appointment to inaugurate the Smrithi Mandaps (Memorials) of veteran freedom fighters in the premises of NIMS Medicity, a private specialty hospital in Thiruvananthapuram on September 11. A tweet by the CPM said “Bharat Jodo or Seat Jodo? 18 days in Kerala, 2 days in UP. Strange way to fight BJP-RSS”.
Rahul Gandhi left no stone unturned to show his love and affection for young girls, differently abled youths, and men on streets. Besides taking pics with them he enquired about their health, financial conditions, educational information before the flash of cameras and flash lights of videographers. He also met state’s first woman driver and briefly interacted with sanitary workers and group of unemployed youth en-route.
Political observers believe these stunts, photo ops, yatra starting points are clear signal that he will try to contest from Christian dominated Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituency as he fears Kerala’s Wayanad (Muslim dominate) not as safe as his once bastion Amethi in UP. Lok Sabha MP Karthi Chidambaram argued with Rahul Gandhi for allowing party men to take part in the first leg of his yatra in Tamil Nadu. He complained about the highhandedness of his team managers and warned him that by avoiding interaction with locals it will not help strengthening the party. He blamed Rahul is being misguided by people who are around him.
During his four days of the TN leg of yatra, it is learnt, Congress party MPs mobilized each Rs.15 lakhs and MLAs each Rs. 5 lakhs totaling Rs. 4 crore. It is learnt that 4 MPs and some MLAs did not contribute anything. There were counter charges by Karur MP Jothimani and Pon Krishnamurthy (supporter of TN Congress chief Azhagiri) over collecting funds.
Yatra mired in controversy in Kerala on 11th day of the yatra after a video went viral. In it local leader extorting donations from a vegetable vendor in Kollam. S Fawaz, vegetable vendor alleged that congress workers damaged the weighing machine of the shop and destroyed vegetables after attacking his staff.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to initiate action and an investigation into a complaint against Rahul Gandhi and his party, Congress. The complaint alleges that Rahul Gandhi has “misused” children as “political tools” in the Congress’ ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. “Disturbing images and videos have been circulating on social media wherein it can be seen that children are being targeted and are made to participate in their campaign with a political agenda under the slogan ‘Bharat Jodo, Bacche Jodo’.
Jairam Ramesh said that if the Bharat Jodo yatra led by Rahul Gandhi from Kanyakumari to Kashmir turns successful then the party will go ahead with another yatra from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. This is a tall claim looking at the way the campaign has so far panned out. Instead, by the time he completes this yatra, it will be a “Congress Mukt Bharat”.