The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is so worried over the huge popularity of Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra that it is raising frivolous and meaningless issues to divert attention, the Congress claimed as the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir yatra entered Kerala on Sunday.
“Initially it talked about containers and later about Rahul Gandhi’s shirt and shoes. Tomorrow it will raise some other frivolous issues,” party leader Jairam Ramesh said at Neyyattinkkara in Thiruvananthapuram district. He alleged that the home minister of the country was leading the futile attack.
There was no immediate reaction from the BJP. On Saturday, Union home minister Amit Shah took a jibe at the former Congress chief saying “he was out to unite the country wearing a costly foreign T-shirt.” The Bharatiya Janata Party earlier in a tweet said that the “Burberry T shirt he was wearing will be costing more than ₹40,000”.
“We just started our yatra but it seems the BJP is really worried over the unprecedented response it is getting. We can gauge it from its leaders’ reactions. Like PM Modi he is not spending public money on his clothing,” Ramesh said. He asked the BJP not to engage in irrelevant talk and said the country is yet to forget about Modi’s ₹10 lakh- worth suit and shoes. He asked the party to debate substantive issues being raised in the yatra like unemployment, price rise and social polarisation rather than beating around the bush.
“The yatra is an attempt to re-connect people, an attempt to revive the party. It is not a speaking yatra, it is an attempt to listen to people. It is unlike Modi’s monologue Mann ki baat,” he said adding that the world’s second oldest party after the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom was on a mission to listen to people and undo damages committed by the BJP in last seven years.
Asked about the upcoming organisational election, party general secretary K C Venugopal said it will be a smooth affair. “The Congress is a democratic party and even a DCC (District Congress Committee) president can run for the party president’s post. A section of the media is creating an atmosphere that the party is going through a big crisis ahead of the election,” he said. Senior leaders Digvijay Singh, Paven Khera, the party’s Kerala chief K Sudhakaran and state Opposition leader V D Satheesan were present at the media briefing.
Sought clarification, not confrontation, says Shashi Tharoor
“You can see the enthusiasm of the people. They are coming out in large numbers to greet yatris and their leader. The yatra will help give fresh energy and revive prospects of the party,” said party leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor.
When asked about upcoming election for the party president he said it is too early to talk about it but he felt a democratic process will only strengthen the party. He reiterated that his letter to party election officer Madhusudan Mistry was to seek a clarification, not confrontation. He criticised the leak of a private letter written by five party MPs and said he was satisfied with Mistry’s reply.
Yatra gets rousing welcome in Kerala
At the break of dawn, thousands of people assembled at Tamil Nadu- Kerala border town Parasala, 45 km south of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, to receive the yatra. The organisers and security personnel had a tough time in controlling them.
“We are overwhelmed by the response of people. This yatra will open a new chapter and will put an end to the politics of hate and divisiveness,” said party spokesperson Shama Mohammad. She said she will cover the entire stretch of Kerala in next 18 days.
The average age of 120-odd permanent yatris is 38 and 30% of the total yatris are women, according to the party.
Some of the participants were seen complaining about high humidity and some of them took time off to get refreshment from roadside eateries.
On Monday, Rahul Gandhi will call on protestors who laid a siege to the upcoming Vizhinjam port complaining loss of their livelihood and displacement. The Adani Group is constructing the country’s first mother ship terminal project near the state capital.
The yatra will enter Kollam district on September 14. It will reach Alappuzha on September 17 and pass through Ernakulam district on September 21 and 22 and reach Thrissur on September 23. It will pass through Palakkad on September 26 and 27 and enter Malappuram on September 28, according to the yatra schedule.