Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi to mobilize key activists, celebrities
Even as the Congress is braving the Medha Patkar row, the party feels there's a need for a proper structure to reach out to more non-political faces to join its Bharat Jodo Yatra. An anonymous Congress leader told The Indian Express that Rahul Gandhi has agreed to invite key activists, celebrities, and sportspersons, among others. A list of such personalities is reportedly being prepared.
Why does this story matter?
- The Congress's ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY)—spearheaded by Gandhi and launched in September 2022—is its largest public outreach in decades from Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
- In the recent past, several activists and celebrities showed support for the BJY by walking alongside Gandhi.
- The party says the cross-country march is aimed at encouraging communal harmony, discouraging hatred, and seeking resolutions to many other issues.
What is Medha Patkar controversy surrounding Congress's BJY?
Last week, Gandhi was seen walking with Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar—who headed the campaign against Gujarat's Sardar Sarovar Project—in the BJY's Maharashtra leg. This gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ammunition to attack the Congress ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections. Moreover, PM Narendra Modi sold the project as key to Gujarat's development and blamed Patkar for the delay in its completion.
The issue has given BJP reason to attack Congress
As Patkar joined the BJY, BJP leaders campaigning for the Gujarat polls criticized the Congress, claiming the party is "anti-Gujarat and anti-Gujaratis." Some Gujarat Congress leaders said the BJP has got "something" to set a narrative out of "a dead thing." They, however, think that the issue is not going to impact polls in the state, while Patkar also reportedly laughed off the controversy.
Congress to reach out to key personalities to join BJY
As the BJP has cornered Congress over the Patkar issue, some politicians within the grand old party argue that it was not a misstep but that the timing was not right. Quoting sources, The Indian Express reported that the party is now set to reach out to sportspersons, activists, Bollywood celebrities, authors, and key personalities from other fields to invite them to the BJY.
'The yatra is all informal': Congress leader
The Indian Express quoted a Congress leader as saying, "There are many [personalities] who wanted to come [to the BJY] but we are not pursuing...their presence could not be politically correct." "We don't want them to join because of one reason or the other...we don't want to create more enemies." The leader noted the BJY is "all informal," as there's currently no vetting process.
'All of this is happening on an ad-hoc basis'
Another Congress leader told TIE that all the key personalities who have joined the BJY so far have come on their own. They said, "All of them have come on their own. Most of these people make inquiries." "They get in touch. The message is passed to Rahul Gandhi's office or those coordinating the Yatra. His office got back to them...their walk was facilitated."
A slew of diverse participants joined BJY so far
The BJY, which has been ongoing since September 7, has so far seen diverse participants. Some of the important participants include actors like Pooja Bhatt, Sushant Singh, Amol Palekar, Mona Ambegaonkar, Riya Sen, and Rashami Desai. Among activists and key personalities, besides Patkar, who joined the BJY are Prashant Bhushan, Tushar Gandhi, Gauri Lankesh's mother Indira and sister Kavita, and Rohit Vemula's mother Radhika.
100 non-political organizations extended support to BJY: Patkar
Separately, talking about the BJY, Patkar claimed that nearly 100 civil society groups and social organizations are backing it. "All the social movements and organizations...not associated with or affiliated to any party...supported it. Because this is necessary," she said. Patkar said they all had an hour-long discussion with Gandhi, adding, "We had presented our own memorandum, telling him that should be his party's initiative."