No one can stop the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said as his pan-India march entered Maharashtra for its 14-day journey on Monday. The first stop for the leader was Deglur in Nanded district where the yatra received a rousing welcome as it reached around 9.30pm, two hours after the expected arrival time. Gandhi said the yatra would see the tricolour being unfurled in Srinagar in the end.
Moments after garlanding the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the Congress leader said, “No power can stop the yatra, neither rain nor storm. The yatra started two months ago from Kanyakumari and at the end of the march, we will unfurl the tiranga in Srinagar.”
Gandhi said the yatra would unite the country while raising voice against those spreading anger and hatred.
During the yatra’s Maharashtra leg, Gandhi said, he would hear grievances of farmers, labourers and the poor.
Attacking the Prime Minister, Gandhi said, “Due to the wrong policies of Narendra Modi, unemployment in the country is rising, farmers have been hit hard, small and medium scale industries have been severely affected…Modi’s wrong polices, notebandhi, GST have broken the backbone of the country.”
Pointing at the rising unemployment and inflation, Gandhi said, “In the past, when the gas cylinder price had reached Rs 400-mark, Narendra Modi had protested. And now when the gas cylinder price has gone beyond Rs 1,000, the Prime Minister is silent. Similarly, petrol price has gone beyond Rs 100, but he is keeping quiet.”
The yatra was welcomed by senior Congress leaders Ashok Chavan, MPCC chief Nana Patole and Balasaheb Thorat. Chavan and Thorat were seen on the stage with Gandhi.
Earlier in the day, Chavan said, “The newly-elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will join the yatra on November 10. NCP chief Sharad Pawar will also likely join the yatra the same day.”
Among the top Congress leaders who reached Nanded for the yatra was former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, part of the G-23 grouping of the party.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said, “Congress rank and file will be present in Nanded for next four days.”
Asked whether Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray will join the yatra, Londhe said though a delegation of Congress leaders had met and invited him last month, they have not yet received any confirmation.
When approached for a comment, Uddhav Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said, “The announcement in this regard will be made soon.” Sources in the party said while Uddhav Thackeray will not join the yatra due to health reasons, his son and former minister Aaditya Thackeray will attend it.
Londhe said Rahul Gandhi will cover 382 kilometres during his Maharashtra yatra. “He will be touring five districts, including Buldhana, Akola, Hingoli and Washim,” he said.
Asked why the yatra has skipped Western Maharashtra, a Congress leader said, “It is a vertical yatra…It is not possible to deviate to the other end. From Maharashtra, the yatra will move on to Madhya Pradesh.”