Making a public appearance after a long gap, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka with her presence at the march being viewed in party circles as a major morale booster.
Amid loud cheers and sloganeering by party workers, Sonia Gandhi, 75, walked besides her son Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders for a few kilometres in Mandya district of Karnataka on Thursday morning.
The top party brass of poll-bound Karnataka led by former chief minister Siddaramaiah and state unit chief D K Shivakumar were also part of the convoy that walked alongside the Gandhis.
The happy images of the mother and son walking together filled social media spaces.
'We have sailed through storms in the past and today too we will break the limits of all challenges and will together unite India,' Rahul Gandhi tweeted as the Yatra continued to traverse Karnataka, where he will stay for another 15 days before moving into Telangana.
'We have weathered many a storm and will overcome all challenges. Together we will unite India,' he said in another tweet in Hindi and posted a photograph of him walking with his mother, his arm around her.
The Congress also posted a picture of the two on Twitter, and said, 'Those shielded by love fear nothing! On the road, marching ahead.'
Another post from the party simply said 'Ma' with a heart and the photograph of Rahul Gandhi tying Sonia Gandhi's shoelaces.
The picture prompted Congress leader Shashi Tharoor to put out a post in Hindi, which said, 'There are blessings even when she breathes, no one can replace a mother as mothers are mothers.'
'Adorable,; said several Twitter users about the picture.
Sonia Gandhi's presence appeared to galvanise those participating in the yatra and bystanders alike with security personnel having a tough time taming the crowds that jostled to get a glimpse of the Congress president.
This is the first time that Sonia Gandhi has joined a public event after recovering from COVID-19 earlier this year.
The Congress president had contracted Covid twice and was also hospitalised.
As she tweaked her programme schedule to stay with the yatris for two hours as against the 30 minutes planned earlier, All India Congress Committee general secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted, 'Congress President Sonia Gandhi walked with @RahulGandhi & padayatris between Jakkanahalli & Karadya in Mandya district. Her programme was for only 30 mins. She stayed with #BharatJodoYatra for two hours, energised by support of people of Karnataka & in turn strengthening our resolve.'
The interim Congress president, who is about to hand over her chair to a non- Gandhi once elections for the post of party president conclude on October 17, has not canvassed or participated in public events of the party for a long time due to health reasons.
Her daughter and Congress general secretary Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted, 'Congress president Sonia Gandhi joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra today.The whole country will be United and will move forward strongly.'
The longest serving Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi had last participated in a roadshow in Varanasi in August 2016 where she sustained a shoulder injury and later underwent a surgery.
Though brief, the presence of Sonia Gandhi was seen in party circles as a major morale booster.
Besides the Congress lauding her spirit on its official Twitter handle, the Karnataka Congress also hailed her and tweeted, 'Unfazed, Undeterred & United. More power to our fight against tyrannical and divisive forces as Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi joins the march.'
Congress leaders further took to the micro blogging site to cheer Rahul Gandhi for his visible show of affection for Sonia Gandhi.
Party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate tweeted a video where Rahul is seen prodding his mother to return to the vehicle, even when the latter appears eager to continue walking.
'A concerned son, before anything else. That's why I respect Rahul Gandhi because a mother has to be loved and cared for - sometimes despite her resistance,' Shrinate captioned the video.
The 3,570 km long Bharat Jodo Yatra began from Kanyakumari on September 8.
The yatra has so far covered 600 km across the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
The Congress seeks to 'combat alleged divisive forces of the BJP-led central government' through the yatra.