Even as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged masses to counter the environment of hatred in the country with “love and tolerance” while addressing a massive rally in Rajasthan’s Alwar on Monday (December 19), party president Mallikarjun Kharge said the success of Bharat Jodo Yatra and support for Rahul among the masses gives him confidence that the party will win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
“The reception, participation that Bharat Jodo Yatra is getting and the support for Rahul Gandhi gives me the confidence that my party will win the 2024 Lok Sabha election,” Kharge said.
Kharge, who is on his maiden visit to Rajasthan after becoming the party chief, broke convention by being the first to address the rally while it has been a tradition for Congress presidents to speak at the end. The rally, planned on the sidelines of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is currently passing through Rajasthan, was organised keeping an eye on the Assembly polls in 2023.
Kharge directed his barbs at the BJP government over its handling of India’s recent border dispute with China in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang and said the Congress has been the conscience-keeper all along.
“Every time Rahul Gandhi speaks, the BJP gets rattled. Rahul spoke about the China issue. The BJP twisted his words and said Rahul is trying to break the country, make India weak. Rahul spoke about Galwan, he spoke about Doklam… Modi says no one can dare to come into Indian territory, but look what actually happened. Twenty of our soldiers were martyred in Galwan, look at what China tried to do in Tawang…”
“Despite all this, Modi meets the Chinese premier, they sit on a swing together and play. Modi behaves like a lion, but when it comes to China, when questions are asked about Tawang, when we ask for a debate in Parliament, he runs away like a mouse. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress will keep asking questions. The BJP can try to stop us, they can try to intimidate us, but we will not get scared,” he said.
Rahul said the Congress, through the Bharat Jodo Yatra wants to wipe out the tradition of hatred sweeping the country, by spreading the message of “love and tolerance.”
“It has been over hundred days of the yatra now. Sometimes on the route, I also bump into some other friends standing atop BJP offices. I wave at them, they can’t wave back even though they want to. Some of them wave back. The BJP workers who gesture to me asking what I am doing – to them I want to say I am trying to open a shop of love in a market of hatred,” he said.
Making a case for the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan, Rahul said the state offers the best schemes for the poor in the country and has made giant strides in the sectors of employment, health and education.
“In Maharashtra and some other states, people would meet me and share how they have no money for medical procedures. Only in Rajasthan, I have not come across people with these grievances,” he said.
He, however, advised Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to eliminate the existing line between government and the common masses to ensure that every voice reaches the “corridors of power.”
To successfully implement the same, he urged Kharge to chalk out a plan under which the cabinet of the Rajasthan government can do a day-long or two-day long yatra in every district and town of the state every month to reach out to people in the grassroots.
‘If you do this yatra every month, you will come closer to people. You will know their problems better. This will automatically strengthen the party,’ he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who also holds the state’s finance portfolio, and is engaged in a bitter power tussle with former deputy Sachin Pilot, dropped a clear hint during the rally that he will continue as the chief minister.
He announced that his cabinet will roll out several important schemes for the state in the budget session next month and plans to go ahead with implementing the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP) despite the Centre’s delay in providing funds for the project and refusal to declare ERCP as a central project.