Karnal: Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said the Bharat Jodo Yatra has not been organised to project Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, asserting that the foot march has nothing to do with elections.

The former Union minister also said the yatra is meant to “ideologically combat the RSS and the BJP”.

Replying to a reporter’s question here, the Congress general secretary in-charge communications said, “The Bharat Jodo Yatra has not been taken out to project Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate. It is an ideological yatra and Gandhi is its main face. But it is not an individual’s yatra.”

He asserted that the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir foot march, which is currently passing through Haryana, is not an “election yatra”.

Ramesh said it is unfair to ask if the opposition party is projecting Gandhi as its prime ministerial face in the 2024 general election.

“No, No, No…. We are not. This is not an election yatra,” he said in response to the reporter’s question.

“There are 200 Bharat yatris. It is the Congress party’s yatra. The party workers are involved. Obviously, the nation’s attention is on Rahul Gandhi because he is the most visible, prominent and dynamic face of the yatra. But this is not meant for an individual, this is not meant to project him as a prime ministerial candidate,” he said.

Flanked by former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ramesh said the yatra is meant to “ideologically combat the RSS and the BJP”.

“Rahul Gandhi has raised three big issues during the Bharat Jodo Yatra — economic inequality, social polarisation and political authoritarianism. He is raising these issues everyday during his walking interactions, his talking interactions, in his corner speeches, in his rallies.

“So I think it is unfair for you to ask this question — ‘are we projecting him as a prime ministerial face?’ We are not. This is not an election yatra,” he said.

Ramesh said the foot march is meant to strengthen the Congress’s ideology, the party organisation and awaken the country’s conscience to the “disaster” and “damage” being caused by the personality of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his mode of functioning, policies, politics of harassment and politics of vendetta.

“I do not think you should trivialise the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Do not reduce it to individuals or elections, the yatra is functioning at a much higher level,” he said.

Ramesh said when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre in 2014, Modi had given the slogan of “maximum governance and minimum government”. However, what has been seen over the last eight years is “maximum nafrat (hatred) and maximum polarisation…. In the name of religion, caste, language, region”, he alleged.

Asked about certain comments of Congress leader Siddaramaiah pertaining to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in connection with the Gauri Lankesh murder case, Ramesh said, “I have not seen this particular statement, but I can tell you that the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was ideologically driven, it was not an accidental event.

“It was the result of an ideology that opposed Mahatma Gandhi’s policies on unity in India, on social harmony and social equality in India. So I do not want to say anything unless I know the context in which the former Karnataka chief minister has made the statement.”

He then added that there are two clear ideologies in today’s India — the ideology of the RSS and the BJP, which is “politics of polarisation, divisiveness, spreading poison, hatred and prejudice” and that of the Congress, which is “to take everybody along, to live and let live, to have social harmony”.

“The Bharat Jodo Yatra has been organised to reinforce and strengthen the Congress’s ideology, which stands diametrically opposite to the RSS ideology,” the veteran leader said.

“The Congress is the only political party in India that has never been in an alliance with the BJP in any government in any state,” he added.

The yatra resumed from Karnal on Saturday morning, with scores of people joining Gandhi on his journey.

The foot march entered Karnal district on Friday from adjoining Panipat, where Gandhi addressed a public meeting.

The yatra, which was launched from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, will end with Gandhi hoisting the national flag in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar by January 30.

It has so far covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, three Haryana districts (in the first phase), Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

By Shadab

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