Bittersweet feelings for former co-travelers as Rahul Gandhi readies for Bharat Jodo Yatra 2

Unlike last time, there will be no contingent of 230 permanent padayatris to accompany Rahul Gandhi, disappointing some of those who were looking forward to reliving the experience
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi during the final phase of the Bharat Jodo Yatra (Photo | INC)
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi during the final phase of the Bharat Jodo Yatra (Photo | INC)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Rahul Gandhi gears up for the second phase of his cross-country march -- this time from Imphal to Mumbai -- some of those who accompanied him during the first journey cannot help being a little disappointed.

This time, unlike the Kanyakumari-Srinagar march, Rahul Gandhi will not have a contingent of 230 permanent padayatris accompanying him. The party has not decided to invite them for the yatra that will pass through 14 states, partly because the yatra will be covered on a bus for a substantial part.

According to current plans, once Rahul Gandhi reaches a particular state, the Congress leadership there would organize a short padayatra which would cover around 10 km - 12 km every day.

Congress state spokesperson from Kerala and AICC coordinator Anil Bose, a permanent yatri, explained that the Bharat Nyay Yatra would be covered through several acres of dense forest and rains.

“Why should Rahul Gandhi and his team walk on foot through dense forests? So it was decided to travel by bus. On reaching the designated states, it has been decided that he would hold small padayatras. Chandy Oommen and I have decided to attend the inaugural event at Imphal on January 14,” Bose to TNIE.

The first Yatra had turned into a huge success for the party, particularly in terms of energising its grassroots workers, as Rahul Gandhi walked from one end of the country to the other over a period of 136 days. This time, the distance will be nearly 50% more.

That yatra had seen padayatris join from different states and different backgrounds, including a team of 19 from Kerala.

The 19 members have since been working closely as a unit to re-energise the party in the southern state. For example, they helped with Chandy Oommen’s by-election campaign in Puthupally and spearheaded a protest in Alappuzha in solidarity to the family members of farmers who committed suicide.

For some of these padyatris, the experience has been no less than life-changing. G Manjukuttan, former state secretary of the State Youth Congress, even penned a book: ‘Container Number: 22’ on his historic 145-day-long BJY.

However, even he feels that the tense situation in the North Eastern states and the possible inclement weather conditions are worrying factors this time.

Moreover, there is also some apprehension in party circles that the BJP government may seek to hold the general election immediately after the launch of Ram temple, Ayodhya, on January 2022. This could thwart Rahul Gandhi’s latest yatra gaining momentum ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

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