Nava Raipur: Their bags are packed and they’re ready to go, waiting just for a signal to begin walking the breadth of India. With Bharat Jodo Yatra 2.0 appearing a distinct possibility, several Congress leaders and workers say they are raring to get back on the streets to quickly take forward the gains from the first one.
There has been talk of another Bharat Jodo Yatra ever since the Kanyakumari to Kashmir campaign ended in Srinagar last month. The buzz escalated on Sunday when former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi appealed to party president Mallikarjun Kharge at the plenary session here to formulate a new plan to carry forward the “tapasya” (penance) undertaken through the march.
“The Bharat yatris, as those who completed the entire journey are known, are ready. Our bags are packed and we will leave as soon as we get orders from the party,” said Vaibhav Walia, AICC delegate and one of those who walked 4,000 km from India’s southern tip to Kashmir.
“All Congress workers and many of us now wish for a second phase of the yatra so it can go to states it hasn’t been to,” Walia told PTI.
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Lhinkim Haokip Shingnaisui of Manipur, the only woman from the northeast who participated as a Bharat yatri in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, said there is a lot of enthusiasm among the people in the northeast after Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Sunday.
“People are calling me to ask how they can join. There is tremendous anticipation for another yatra,” Shingnaisui, called Kim by her Congress colleagues, told PTI.
And yes, she added, she would definitely join the march that might be from the northeast to the west of the country.
Gandhi’s comments on Sunday, saying he and the entire country would participate in the “tapasya”, were widely taken as an indication that another such initiative could be in the offing in the near future.
After his remarks, Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh told PTI that the Congress is considering a Pasighat-to-Porbandar yatra (east to west), but said its format could be a bit different from the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Ramesh said there is a lot of enthusiasm and energy among party workers for another possible yatra.
Though the Bharat Jodo Yatra mostly hit the right notes and observers said it went a long way changing Gandhi’s image, there were constant questions about the route and why it did not pass through certain important or election-bound states.
Many in the party now argue that a second yatra may cross states such as Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal and the northeast states, boosting the party’s prospects at a pan-India level. After this, most parts of the country would have been covered.
“Such a yatra will have a very good impact for the party in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and other places,” Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Brijlal Khabri told PTI.
The government of the day does not listen to any grievances be it on the issue of price rise or unemployment, and there is no rule of law but only jungle raj, he alleged.
“Whenever there is talk of yatra, however, people get very excited and it endears them towards the Congress,” Khabri added.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra had covered a very small distance in Uttar Pradesh and stayed in politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh only for a few days.
The Congress carried out state-level yatras simultaneously with the Bharat Jodo Yatra in states such as Bihar, Assam and Odisha but a full-fledged yatra would have a completely different connotation, leaders said.
Congress leader from Bihar and former Union minister Shakeel Ahmad said his state unit undertook a campaign on the lines of Bharat Jodo Yatra but people do want Rahul Gandhi to carry out a yatra in states it had not crossed.
“The yatra has shown that unity is our strength and every right thinking person and civil society people wants Rahul Gandhi to carry out another yatra,” he told PTI.
“This would be very welcome. Not just the Congress and its allies, all those secular forces which want the country’s welfare would welcome such a yatra and would want to participate,” Ahmad said.
Congress leader from Kerala, Chandy Oommen, who also walked from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, agreed with the general sentiment. Another yatra would complete the task of the first.
“From every village, town and city of this country, the bell of freedom, love and unity should ring. For that to happen every state should be touched upon by the yatra….A second yatra will complete this mission for which every Bharat yatri is ready as a missionary,” said Oommen, son of former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra covered about 4,000 km through 12 states and two Union territories. Rahul Gandhi addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings and 13 press conferences. He held over 275 planned walking interactions and more than 100 sitting interactions during the course of the journey.