Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the government is coming up with “excuses” to stop the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra‘, days after Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote to him to consider suspending the march if Covid protocols could not be followed.
The yatra, which started in Kanyakumari on September 7 and will conclude in Kashmir, is in Haryana, after covering Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“This yatra will go to Kashmir. Now, they have come out with a new idea. They wrote me a letter that Covid was spreading, stop the yatra,” Gandhi said while addressing a gathering in Ghasera village in Haryana’s Nuh district.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by him entered the state through Nuh on Wednesday after its Rajasthan leg.
“Now, they are coming up with excuses to stop the yatra. Wear masks, stop the yatra, Covid is spreading, these are all excuses,” he said.
Union Health Minister Mandaviya on Tuesday wrote to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to consider suspending the yatra if Covid protocols could not be followed.
Targeting the BJP, which is in power at the Centre and in Haryana, Gandhi said it is scared of the truth.
” Hindustan ki shakti say, Hindustan ki Sachai say, yeh log dar gaye hai, yeh sachai hai (they have got scared of power and the truth of the country. This is the truth),” the former Congress chief said, adding that “we do not want RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi‘s hate-filled India”.
The BJP government is also trying to suppress the (opposition) Congress’ voice in Parliament and this is also a reason why this yatra was taken out, Gandhi said. The Winter Session of Parliament began on December 7 and will end on December 23, a week ahead of schedule.
“If we want to speak in Parliament or raise an issue such as the Rafale jet matter, demonetisation, GST (Goods and Services Tax) or regarding hatred spreading in the country, do you know what happens? The mic is switched off… keep on speaking, (but) no one will hear,” he said.
“The TV camera’s direction is changed and the (Lok Sabha) speaker’s face is visible and the mic is switched off in Parliament,” Gandhi said, and added that “this is why, we had to take out this yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir”.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has been going on for more than 100 days and in this people from all faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, men, women, and children have taken part, he said.
He said, in this, lakhs have taken part, but no one even asked anyone what their religion was, what language they spoke or from which place they came from.
In this yatra, people respected each other and hugged each other and spread love, Gandhi said.
He said on Wednesday, the Haryana Congress president fell down while walking during the yatra and he was picked up within a second by seven to eight people.
“Nobody asked about his religion or caste… You are an Indian and you will be picked up. We will not let you fall. We need such a government which protects every Indian,” Gandhi said.
“When a farmer faces a problem, entire India protects him, if a labourer faces any difficulty, then the entire country helps him out. We want such an India…We do not want RSS, Narendra Modi’s hate filled India. Nobody wants it,” he said.
Gandhi reiterated that he is “opening a shop of love in the market of hate”.
“I gave this message to you. Do not think only Rahul Gandhi is opening this shop. I am saying it to you, everyone, every youth, every farmer, labourer, small shopkeeper, you open a shop of love in the market of hate,” the Congress leader said.
Love each other and embrace each other. This is India’s strength and it will take the country forward, he said.
Calling the media his friends, Gandhi said, “I call them friends, but generally they don’t do the job of friends. Their friends are someone else, who are seen on TV for 24 hours. Our Yatra is going from Kanyakumari and to Kashmir, and lakhs are taking part in it, but you will not see this on media.”
“But if Narendra Modi ji walks even 10 to 15 steps, you will get to see this on TV for 24 hours,” he said.
This is not the fault of the media and “I am not against them (media)…there is a controller at the back…”, Gandhi said, adding that “so, this is the situation in the country”.
When the yatra reached Ghasera, also known as Gandhi gram as Mahatma Gandhi visited it during the Partition, he payed floral tributes to him.
The march started with the slogan ‘woh todenge, hum jodenge’, “but we have to go a step ahead and say, hum ‘unhe todne nahin denge’ (we will not allow them to break)”, Gandhi said.
Senior Congress leaders including Randeep Singh Surjewala, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, K C Venugopal, Kumari Selja, Haryana Congress chief Udai Bhan and Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav were also present.
Accusing the government of selectively picking on the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh at press conference here said Mandaviya’s letter to Rahul Gandhi over following Covid protocols in the march was based on concerns raised by three BJP MPs and not on advice of experts or scientists.
“If there is advice of experts or any protocol is to be followed on the advice of any medical health, public health or scientific institution, it becomes our responsibility to follow that. We will oppose a political protocol but not a scientific protocol,” he said Congress general secretary in-charge communications Ramesh said Mandaviya in his letter to Gandhi cited concerns raised by three BJP MPs over the spread of coronavirus. “The letter is not based on any scientific advise or advice from experts, but on basis of letters of MPs, and the health minister suddenly writes to Rahul Gandhi,” Ramesh said.
He asserted that each “Bharatyatri” taking part in the yatra is fully vaccinated and “many have also got a booster dose”. “There has not been a single case of Covid in the Bharat Jodo Yatra so far,” he said.
Targeting the BJP, Ramesh told a press conference that politics is being played on a serious public health issue. This is being done since the Covid outbreak in the country in 2020, he said, adding politicisation of such a matter is wrong and the government is “selectively picking” on the yatra.