Asserting that the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is an ideological yatra and not an electoral one, the Congress on Saturday said it was being taken out against the “anyay kaal” of 10 years of the Narendra Modi government.
The yatra will begin from Thoubal district near here and is being seen as the Congress’ bid to set the narrative in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls and put the spotlight on issues such as unemployment, price rise and social justice.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the biggest challenge before the country is that it is facing an ideology which believes in polarisation, economic inequalities and political authoritarianism.
“The prime minister shows golden dreams of ‘amrit kaal’ but what is the reality of the last 10 years – ‘anyay kaal’. No mention of ‘anyay kaal’ is made while big boasts of ‘amrit kaal’ are projected,” Ramesh said.
He was addressing a press conference here along with former Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, state party chief Keisham Meghachandra Singh, former Arunachal Pradesh CM Nabam Tuki and Congress Working Committee member Gaikhangam.
“The yatra is being taken out keeping in mind political, economic and social injustices committed in the last 10 years,” Ramesh said.
“This is a yatra by a political party. It is an ideological yatra and not an electoral one,” he stressed.
Ahead of the yatra, Gandhi shared a video montage of women from Manipur sharing their wishes for the march.
“This message of love from the women of Manipur is the blessing we need before we begin our battle for justice tomorrow,” he said on his WhatsApp channel.
The yatra will pass through 100 Lok Sabha constituencies in 15 states and the party believes it will prove to be as “transformative” as Rahul Gandhi’s earlier cross-country march.
The Congress has said it is taking out the yatra as the government did not give it a chance to raise people’s issues in Parliament and the initiative is aimed at re-establishing the principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity enshrined in the Constitution.
The yatra will traverse 6,713 km, mostly in buses but also on foot. It will cover 110 districts in 67 days, before culminating in Mumbai on March 20 or 21.
Though the Congress has repeatedly stressed that this is not an electoral yatra, it comes at a crucial juncture as the party seeks to revive its fortunes after a poor showing in the last round of assembly elections.
With the BJP focusing on the January 22 Ram temple consecration ceremony, the Congress wants to put the spotlight on bread-and-butter issues through this yatra.
Gandhi had on Friday said emotional issues are being “misused” politically and attention is being diverted from real issues, in a “betrayal” of the people of the country.
In a post on X, he said, “The youth will have to think about what will be the identity of the India of our dreams? Quality of life or just emotions? Youth raising provocative slogans or the employed youth? Love or hate?”.
The yatra will be flagged off from a private ground in Thoubal district, instead of Imphal, the party’s initial choice.
The state government had given the Congress conditional approval to flag off the yatra from the Palace Grounds in the state capital, restricting the number of participants. Therefore, the Congress decided to opt for another venue.
The Thoubal district administration has also imposed some restrictions such as the duration should not exceed an hour and the number of participants should not cross 3,000.
The yatra will be in Manipur for a day and cover a little over 100 km. The state has been rocked by ethnic violence since May last year which has claimed more than 180 lives and rendered thousands of people homeless.
At the press conference, Ramesh lashed out at the BJP-led central and state governments for the situation in Manipur.
“What can be a bigger ‘anyay’ (injustice) than the prime minister not visiting the state even once,” he said and slammed PM Modi for maintaining “silence” on the violence in this northeastern state.
The PM spoke during the no-confidence motion in Parliament for hours but talked about Manipur only for a few minutes, what can be a bigger injustice, he asked.
Ramesh alleged that there is no ‘loktantra’ but just ‘ektantra (one-man rule)’, and asserted that the yatra is aimed at strengthening democracy and democratic institutions.
During a virtual meeting of the opposition INDIA alliance on Saturday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge invited all leaders of the bloc to join the yatra anywhere along its route, Ramesh informed.
Besides Manipur, the yatra will cover four northeastern states — Nagaland (257 km in two days), Arunachal Pradesh (55 km in one day), Meghalaya (five km in one day) and Assam (833 km in eight days).
The yatra will then move on to West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
According to the route released by the party, the yatra will stay the longest in Uttar Pradesh, covering 1,074 km in 11 days. It would pass through politically vital areas, including Amethi, the Gandhi family bastion of Rae Bareli and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi.
Gandhi will address public gatherings and interact with civil society members and organisations twice a day during the yatra.
Before starting the yatra, Gandhi will pay homage to martyrs at the Khongjom War Memorial in Thoubal, built in memory of those killed in the last Anglo-Manipur War in 1891.