Srinagar, Jan 30 (PTI) Several Opposition leaders on Monday hailed Rahul Gandhi's leadership, calling him a "ray of hope", and someone who has emerged to "save the country".
In a show of opposition strength and unity, leaders of several national and regional parties braved snowfall and bone-chilling cold to share the stage with Congress leaders at a rally organised to mark the culmination of the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra here.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had extended invitation to the presidents of Trinamool Congress, JD(U), Shiv Sena, Telegu Desam Party, National Conference, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI, CPI(M), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Hindustani Awam Morcha, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nationalist Congress Party, DMK, Kerala Congress (M), MDMK, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Rashtriya Lok Dal, IUML, Revolutionary Socialist Party and JD(S).
Leaders and representatives of PDP, NC, CPI, VCK, DMK, IUML, JMM and RSP attended the rally held at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium amid tight security and heavy snowfall.
BSP MP Shyam Singh Yadav also attended the event. He had earlier also walked with Gandhi in Delhi.
Former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah said they see a "ray of hope" in Rahul Gandhi.
"Rahul ji said he has come to Kashmir, to his home. Rahul ji, this is your home. I hope that whatever has been taken from Jammu and Kashmir and this country, by the (Nathuram) Godse's ideology, will be returned by a Gandhi, and not just to Jammu and Kashmir, but to the whole country," Mufti, the chief of the PDP, said while speaking at the concluding rally of the yatra.
Mufti said Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi had said at the time of partition in 1947 that he sees a ray of hope in J&K.
"Today, the whole country sees that ray of hope in Rahul Gandhi," the PDP chief said.
Echoing similar sentiments, National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah said the yatra has rekindled the ray of hope in the whole of the country.
"Mehbooba Mufti was correct. Today, (MK) Gandhiji was martyred. Gandhiji in 1947 said he sees a ray of hope in J-K. This yatra, perhaps, has once again rekindled that ray of hope in the whole country," Abdullah said.
Congratulating the former Congress president and the party on behalf of himself, his father Farooq Abdullah and the NC, the junior Abdullah said the yatra has truly been very successful. "This country was in a dire need of this yatra." Calling upon Gandhi to unite the east of the country with the west through another Bharat Jodo Yatra, Abdullah said he will also take part in that to spread the message of peace, brotherhood and love.
DMK MP Tiruchi Siva said when Rahul Gandhi started this yatra, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin was there for the launch and now at this valediction event he had sent him on his behalf.
"Rahul Gandhi has successfully completed the yatra and reached out to every common citizen, conveying a message that a leader has emerged to save this country," Siva said.
The DMK-Congress relationship goes back a long time as former chief minister M Karunanidhi and Sonia Gandhi had mutual respect and the same continues with M K Stalin and Rahul Gandhi, he noted.
"Before the last Lok Sabha election, it was M K Stalin who pronounced in public that our PM candidate will be Rahul Gandhi," he recalled.
"I like to say only one thing when we remember Mahatma Gandhi on this day, when he returned from South Africa, he was offered the leadership of the Congress party to lead the freedom struggle but he said I want to travel across the country to know about the people and then he led the freedom struggle… It is only Rahul Gandhi who has walked from Kanyakumari to Srinagar in rains, scorching sun and now in bitter cold," Siva said.
He urged all political parties in the country interested in the cause of secularism and federalism to come together.
Rahul Gandhi through this yatra has given a clarion call that all parties who are interested in the welfare of this country and want to uphold its sovereignty to come together, the DMK leader said.
RSP leader N K Premchandran expressed solidarity with Rahul Gandhi and the "historic movement" he had undertaken through the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
"With this yatra Rahul Gandhi has proved that he is the right leader in this country to fight all these communal and divisive forces," the Lok Sabha MP said.
"Definitely, we hope that Rahul Ji can lead this country with all secular democratic forces united together against the divisive communal forces and to regain the democratic, secular fabric of our country. This yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir is one of the historic movements of the country and this rally is a historic moment," Premchandran said.
The people, the toiling masses, the downtrodden and all the secular people's hopes are on Rahul Gandhi and the Congress to give an alternative to this country, he said.
VCK party chief Thol. Thirumavalavan also hailed Gandhi's leadership, saying he is the only hope to save the people and the Constitution.
Stressing on Opposition unity, he also alleged if the BJP forms the government at the Centre again there will be no parliamentary democracy left.
CPI leader D Raja urged all secular parties to unite.
"We all fought together for independence of the country and liberated the country from the British Raj. All secular parties must come together to liberate the country from this BJP Raj," he said.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav this yatra was not just physical, but also of the mind, and it had given a new hope to the country.
JMM's Mithilesh Kumar and IUML's Kani Navas also praised Gandhi's leadership and the yatra.
Sources said some Opposition party leaders could not make it on account of inclement weather. However, some Opposition party leaders had also expressed their inability to be part of the rally due to their preoccupation. PTI ASK/SSB TIR TIR