Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said the Bharat Jodo Yatra is teaching him things that cannot be learnt “while travelling in an aeroplane, a helicopter or any vehicle", as the march entered party-ruled Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh to a grand welcome by party workers here.
Gandhi and his fellow yatris were received at Chanwli Chauraha, approximately 40 km from the Jhalawar city, in the traditional Rajasthani style when they entered the state, where the party has been papering over differences between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.
Cultural artistes presented performances, including Rajasthan’s famous ‘Padharo Mhare Des’ to welcome the yatris as Gandhi, Gehlot, Pilot and state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra held hands and danced in a circle together on the stage.
In his address to the gathering, Gandhi said he has no hatred in his heart towards the BJP and the RSS, but he will not let them “spread hatred in the country".
He said he is learning immensely from the march. “Things that cannot be understood while travelling in an aeroplane, a helicopter or any vehicle." “It is only after shaking hands with farmers that one understands what they are doing. This cannot be learnt from a helicopter," he said.
Targeting the Central government, he said that only three-four industrialists are benefitting under this dispensation which is not in the interest of the country.
Gandhi alleged that BJP has spread fear in the country. “One who does not have fear, will not have hatred…this is what every religion teaches. I want to remove this fear…the fear that BJP has instilled in the hearts of the farmers; in traders and the youth of unemployment,” he said. The former Congress chief said he wants to remove the fear from hearts of BJP and RSS people.
“I do not hate them…I am not afraid of anyone,” Gandhi said, adding that he will not let the BJP and RSS spread hatred in the country. Speaking about people complaining on start of the yatra in early hours of the day, he said every Congress worker in Rajasthan will be seen on roads at 5 am, instead of 6 am.
“This is party of Mahatma Gandhi and not of Savarkar and Nathuram Godse. We know how to do penance,” he added. The Congress leader said the yatra is getting love, support and affection everywhere. “I am sure the people of Rajasthan will support the yatra.” The yatra entered Rajasthan after spending 12 days in Madhya Pradesh where it covered a distance of 380 kms. It entered the desert state from Agar Malwa district in MP by crossing a bridge over Chanvali river around 6.40 pm with Gandhi sitting in a vehicle.
Congress’s MP unit chief Kamal Nath and other party leaders accompanied Gandhi as he entered Rajasthan.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajasthan CM Gehlot said Gandhi has started the most difficult yatra and representing the sentiments of people.
“Unemployment is at peak, people are suffering with inflation, unity and harmony should be there but there is atmosphere of fear and hatred, pressure on judiciary and election commission,” he said.
At Chanwli, villagers and Congress workers carrying party flags gathered in huge numbers for the event — rolling out green carpets, setting up a stage, and arranging drums and DJ systems to give their leader and his companions on the 3,570-km yatra a grand welcome.
Roads leading to the venue were lined with welcome hoardings and banners of Gehot and his former deputy Pilot. Posters of local leaders were also put up.
The administration made tight security arrangements with police personnel from different areas pulled in to cover the entire venue.
This is the first time that the yatra, which began from Kanyakumari on September 8, is entering a Congress-ruled state.
The yatra is scheduled to cover a distance of 500 km — passing through Jhalawar, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa and Alwar districts — in 17 days before entering Haryana on December 21.
According to the official plan, Gandhi will start the Rajasthan leg of yatra on Monday at 6 am from Kali Talai. He will reach the Bali Borda chauraha at 10 am after covering a distance of 14 km. After lunch, the yatra will resume from Nahardi at 3.30 pm and will reach Chandrabhaga Chauraha at 6.30 pm.
Gandhi will have a corner meeting at Chandrabhaga chauraha in the evening. The night stay will be in the sports complex of Jhalawar.
He is scheduled to hold dialogue with farmers at Lalsot in Dausa on December 15 and address a public rally in Alwar’s Malakheda on December 19.
Reacting to the yatra entering Rajasthan, state BJP president Satish Poonia said Gandhi should tell what happened to his 2018 poll promise of waiving off farm loans in the state. Poonia said he will ask one question daily to Rahul Gandhi during the yatra’s stay in Rajasthan.
“The loan was not waived off, but the lands of thousands of farmers were auctioned and many farmers committed suicide. Will you bring any gift for the farmers of Rajasthan?” he asked in a video message.
“This is my first question to Rahul Gandhi and this series of questions will continue for 18 days, as long as the Congress leader stays in Rajasthan," he added.
Ahead of the yatra entering their state, Gehlot and Pilot, who have been in a tug of war for the CM’s post, presented a united face.
Dismissing apprehensions that the infighting may affect the yatra’s Rajasthan leg, Pilot on Sunday told PTI that the party’s state unit is “fully united" and focussed on ensuring that the yatra is even more successful than it has been in other states.
The yatra will only add to the efforts towards the next election in 12 months, the former deputy chief minister said.
The Gehlot government has also pacified Gurjar leader Vijay Singh Bainsla, who had threatened to disrupt the yatra over his pending demand regarding reservation and other issues with the state government, by holding a series of meetings on the issues recently. Bainsla has withdrawn his protest against the yatra.
Earlier in the day, state Congress chief Dotasra said, “It will be a historic yatra in the state. Besides party workers, there is great enthusiasm among the people of the state for this yatra." Jhalawar is a BJP stronghold having the influence of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. She represents Jhalrapatan assembly constituency of Jhalawar. All the four assembly constituencies in this district are with the BJP and Raje’s son Dushyant Singh is MP from Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat
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