Is There Rahul Gandhi Factor In UP Opposition Skipping Congress March, Jairam Ramesh Says This

The Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Delhi this week before a 9-day break

New Delhi:

The Congress will wait and see who turns up at the Bharat Jodo Yatra (united India march) when it enters Uttar Pradesh on January 3, party leader Jairam Ramesh told NDTV today.

The Congress had invited Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary to join the yatra, which is on a nine-day break, when it resumes from UP.

But the top opposition leaders of UP are likely to skip the yatra led by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi.

“I wouldn’t jump to any conclusion at this juncture. I think we should wait till the yatra starts and let us see who comes and who doesn’t,” Mr Ramesh told NDTV today.

The opposition leaders in UP have cited prior commitments as the reason for declining the Congress invitation, people familiar with the matter said.

The Congress’s yatra is being seen as a springboard towards a strong campaign for the 2024 national election, though the party says it is not a “chunao jeeto (win election)” yatra and instead focuses on boosting morale of party workers and connecting with people.

With Mr Gandhi leading the yatra, the opposition leaders in UP, if they attend the yatra, may give an impression that the Congress leader would be the fulcrum for opposition unity in 2024 and they would band around him.

Mr Ramesh denied the party is trying to project Mr Gandhi as the face of opposition unity in 2024. He, however, said opposition unity depends on a strong Congress party. “A weak Congress party can’t be the fulcrum of opposition unity,” Mr Ramesh said.

“Let’s not jump the gun. Nobody is talking about leading in 2024. We’re trying to strengthen the Congress party,” he said.

Sources have told NDTV that Akhilesh Yadav may not join the yatra, but it is not yet clear if he will send a party leader to participate in the march.

RLD chief Chaudhary said he has prior engagements and won’t be able to join the march. Party spokesperson Rohit Jakhar said RLD supports the yatra, but added that the march should not be seen through a political prism. “We are already running a government with the Congress in Rajasthan. We ideologically support the yatra,” he told NDTV over a phone call.

Mayawati, whose party is losing ground in a state it once ruled, has been fiercely critical of the Congress in her recent statements.

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