Jhalawar (Rajasthan): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi began the Rajasthan leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Jhalawar district on Monday, with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot in attendance.
The 89th day of the yatra started from Kali Talai in Jhalrapatan, a rural area on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border, and later in the evening, Gandhi concluded the march for the day at Suraj Pole Naka, where he cornered the RSS and BJP over inflation and unemployment issues.
He walked about 27 kilometres during the day.
Gandhi set off the yatra at 6.10 am when the temperature was 13 degrees Celsius, but he was seemingly comfortable walking in a half sleeves T-shirt and trousers teamed with sports shoes, while the other leaders and workers were seen in jackets.
It was a journey thorough rural landscapes with fields of oranges and mustard greens. Right from early morning, people from different walks of life participated in the yatra and a sea of people joined in the second half.
Various groups of cultural and folk artistes put up performances and people showered rose petals to welcome the yatris in the desert state. At some spots, Gandhi stopped for pictures with children and alike.
The other notable leaders who accompanied him were AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra, senior leader Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas.
At a press conference here earlier in the day, Gehlot lashed out at the mainstream national media, claiming they have "boycotted" the yatra as editors and owners were under pressure. He claimed the media has completely failed to fulfil their responsibility as the fourth pillar of democracy, and history will not forgive them for that.
"Kaan khol kar sun lo…national media wale bhi. state media wale bhi. Itihas aapko maaf nahi karega (listen carefully...national and state media, history will not forgive you)," he said.
As the Rajasthan chief minister launched his tirade against the media, All India Congress Committee general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh intervened to defend the journalists present there, saying they should not be blamed as they have been doing their job properly.
However, he also lamented the coverage of the yatra in the mainstream was not as per their expectations.
The Rajasthan chief minister further said the Bharat Jodo Yatra was attracting the attention of "the whole world" and the youth associated with it would prove to be an asset for Rahul Gandhi. He was referring to the 10 yatris who have accompanied Gandhi from the beginning of the yatra on September 7.
"This yatra is not only attracting the attention of the country but the whole world. It is a big message for those countries where there is democracy," Gehlot said.
In the course of his march, Gandhi waved at people who had gathered to welcome him and interacted with about half-a-dozen children. He stopped for his evening tea before addressing a street corner meeting.
During the march, former MP Raghuveer Meena tripped and fractured his finger while trying to match the pace of the yatris. He was taken to the district hospital in Jhalawar in an ambulance.
After covering about 14 kilometres, the padayatra halted at Baliborda chauraha. It resumed after lunch from the Nahardi area around 3.30 pm. When the yatra reached the Suraj Pole Naka, Gandhi addressed the street corner meeting.
In the meeting, he targeted the RSS and the BJP for not chanting 'Jai Siyaram' and 'Hey Ram'.
Gandhi questioned why BJP and RSS members do not say 'Jai Siyaram' and why they removed Maa Sita from this slogan.
He said RSS members have to say 'Jai Siyaram' and they cannot insult Sita Maa. Gandhi added that RSS members have to understand Lord Ram and his way of life.
The Congress party tweeted in Hindi, asking its members and supporters not to slow down but deliver "something amazing".
"Bharat Jodo Yatra has saluted the soil of bravery, and Rajasthan, which is a land of histories, will create another history," it said.
The yatra entered Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh on Sunday evening.
While Gehlot shared pictures on Twitter, Pilot took to the micro-blogging platform to convey that the yatra in the state started with a resolve to fulfil hopes and expectations of the youth.
Dotasra tweeted, "The caravan of Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi to tie India in the thread of love, harmony and unity has now set out to create history in Rajasthan." Rajasthan is the only Congress-ruled state where the yatra has entered and will cover about 500 kilometres, passing through Jhalawar, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa and Alwar districts over 17 days before entering Haryana on December 21.
Gandhi will interact with farmers at Lalsot in Dausa on December 15 and address a public meeting at Malakheda in Alwar on December 19.
The yatra started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7 and has so far covered the five southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana, and then traversed through Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
It will conclude in Jammu and Kashmir in early February 2023, covering 3,570 kilometres in 150 days.