Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of spreading fear and hatred in the country, even as he asserted that India stood for "brotherhood, unity and respect" and that is why his 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' was "successful".
Gandhi paid obeisance at Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib before the start of the Punjab leg of the Yatra. He sported a turban and wore a half-sleeved T-shirt to the place of worship. He later also visited Rauza Sharif dargah.
Addressing a gathering at Sirhind in Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib, the former Congress chief said, “An atmosphere of hatred and violence has been spread in the country. The BJP and the RSS people are dividing the country, pitting one religion against the other, one caste against the other, one language against the other… And they have spoiled the atmosphere of the country."
"We thought the country needs to show another path which is of love, unity and brotherhood, this is why, we started this Yatra," he said.
Calling media his "friend", Gandhi rued that the fourth estate was showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's face round-the-clock and not raising issues like unemployment or inflation.
He also said that his Yatra has been receiving an overwhelming public response as it moves from one state to another.
“There is a reason for this — the hatred, fear and violence being spread by the BJP is not the country's way and not its history. This country is of brotherhood, unity and respect. And this is why, this Yatra is successful,” he underlined.
During the yatra, Gandhi said he learnt a lot as he spoke to farmers, small shopkeepers, labourers, unemployed youth, women and others.
“We walk nearly 25 km each day. The spirit of this Yatra is to listen to what people have to say, listen to their concerns,” he said.
He said the biggest issues in the country are hatred, violence, unemployment and inflation, adding that the Yatra is trying to raise these issues and fight against them.
“You gave us your strength and we will interact with you over the next 10 days in the state,” he told the gathering in the northern state.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring noted that the Yatra is not for the Congress party, but for the country.
“The Yatra is being undertaken to save the constitution of the country and give the message of brotherhood,” he said, urging people to participate in the Yatra in a big way.
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda expressed hope that the foot march will get massive support in Punjab.
“This 'janchetna' (public awareness), which was started by Rahul Gandhi, is for every section of people, including farmers, labourers, traders and employees. It has now turned into 'janandolan' (public movement),” he said.
Hooda said Gandhi has become the voice of farmers, labourers and traders in the country.
Punjab Congress chief Warring, Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in Haryana Hooda, Haryana Congress chief Udai Bhan, former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Congress MP Manish Tewari, among others, accompanied Gandhi in the Yatra.
Braving the harsh winters, a number of party workers had gathered here for the Yatra.
Later, the Yatra began from new Dana Mandi of Sirhind. It will take a break at Mandi Gobindgarh and resume at 3:30 pm. The march will make a night halt at Barmalipur playground near Ludhiana.
According to the schedule of the Punjab leg of the Yatra, it started from Sirhind and would pass through Mandi Gobindgarh, Khanna, Sahnewal, Ludhiana, Goraya, Phagwara, Jalandhar, Dasyua and Mukerian.
A rally will be held at Pathankot on January 19 before the Yatra enters Jammu and Kashmir.
The Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, will conclude in Srinagar by January 30, with Gandhi hoisting the national flag in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
The march has so far covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.