Amidst sharpened battlelines ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, all parties on Sunday, Gandhi Jayanti, raced to ensure they were seen on the same side of one person: Mahatma Gandhi.
In a Hindi tweet, he said, “Bapu taught us to walk on the path of truth and non-violence. He explained the meaning of love, compassion, harmony and humanity… Today on Gandhi Jayanti, we take a pledge that just as he united the country against injustice, we will unite our India.”
Rahul has been emphasising that the aim of the yatra is to unite people, as opposed to the BJP’s agenda.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi paid tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Raj Ghat in Delhi. Accompanying her incidentally was senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is set to contest the Congress presidential polls.
While the party has been denying so, Kharge is seen as the Gandhi family-backed candidate in the October 17 race, against Shashi Tharoor.
Kharge also visited the Vijay Ghat to pay homage to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who shares his birth anniversary with Gandhi. “One trait that both Gandhiji & Shastriji had in common was absolute resolve, which continues to inspire us,” Kharge said in a tweet.
Tharoor made his Gandhi stop at Sevagram in Wardha, Maharashtra, the ashram where Gandhi spent his final years. He called the visit the launch of his campaign for the party presidential poll.
“A moving experience to spend the morning of #GandhiJayanti in Sevagram, Wardha. Was awed to see his simple dwelling, the very cot in which he slept, the implements he used, the humble facilities there. Wrote my thoughts in the visitors’ book,” he tweeted. Tharoor also shared videos of bhajans being sung at the ashram.
Earlier, in words carefully chosen to pay a tribute to Gandhi but also to hint at the increasingly uphill battle he is himself facing, Tharoor tweeted: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
In her tweet, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra referred to the Bharat Jodo Yatra, saying: “Bapu is a Bharat Yatri sharing the sufferings of the people of the country and uniting the whole of India…Today we are walking on the path shown by Bapu with the slogan of ‘Bharat Jodo’ and with determination and the torch of unity in hand.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party and government accuse the Congress of honouring some national leaders to the exclusion of others, visited both the Raj Ghat and Vijay Ghat.
Paying homage to Gandhi Jayanti, Modi talked about this year being “even more special because India is marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (the Modi government’s celebration of 75 years of Indian Independence)”. “May we always live up to Bapu’s ideals. I also urge you all to purchase Khadi and handicraft products as a tribute to Gandhi Ji,” he added.
In a video shared by the AAP’s social media handle, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who spent the day in Gujarat, talked about Gandhi’s dreams for the country in the fields of education, healthcare, quality of life and brotherhood of people belonging to different religions, adding: “We have united people in Delhi and changed the country. We have made the Republic meet its strength.”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, who is an ally of the Congress and flagged off Rahul’s Yatra, said in a tweet: “On this day, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who worked hard to overcome adversities and to create a society with Equality and Fraternity, let’s take an oath to say there is no place for the forces of hatred to thrive on this Gandhian soil.”
(with inputs from PTI)