The Kerala leg of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi got off to a rousing start on its fourth day early Sunday.
Led by a bevy of senior Congress leaders, thousands of party workers gathered at Parassala to receive the rally that commenced at Kaniyakumari and will traverse 3,570 km across 12 States to culminate in Srinagar in nearly five months.
In Kerala, the 19-day-long padayatra will cover various districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram.
The historic rally, which reached Cheruvarakonam near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border late Saturday, resumed with the hoisting of the National Flag at the Samuel LMS Higher Secondary School, where the ‘yatris’ camped overnight, around 6.30 a.m.
Mr. Gandhi and his fellow travellers were received by by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran, Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan, AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar, senior leaders Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, Shashi Tharoor, K. Muraleedharan, Benny Behanan, Adoor Prakash, Anto Antony, Jebi Mather and State co-ordinator of the rally Kodikunnil Suresh, all MPs, United Democratic Front (UDF) convener M.M. Hassan and several legislators at Parassala.
Mr. Gandhi commenced the Kerala leg of the foot rally after paying floral tributes before the statues of Mahatma Gandhi and K. Kamaraj.
Several people including women and children thronged the roads to greet Mr. Gandhi as he and the ‘yatris’ footslogged their way to Neyyattinkara. He stopped briefly at Kunnathuvila near Udiyankulangara at a tea shop for a quick bite. A visibly surprised Stanley, the shop owner, rushed to serve his VIP guest some tea, banana fritters and biscuits before clicking a photo with him and the other leaders.
During the noon break at Madhavi Mandiram in Neyyattinkara, Mr. Gandhi interacted with handloom workers to enquire about their concerns and expectations as they persevered to keep the traditional sector afloat. He also met a group of students and teachers of the Dr. GR Public School before resuming his journey. He paid floral tributes at the Ayyankali memorial at Venganoor as he proceeded towards Nemom
Winding down his yatra for the day at Nemom, Mr. Gandhi said the rally is an extension of the ideas that prevail in the State.
“Sree Narayana Guru had given the message of Bharat Jodo (unite India) many years ago. It is not a new message that we are taking across the country, but an old message and it is one that is in the DNA of Kerala. You (the people) have shown the rest of the country to stand and work together in harmony. Kerala does not allow itself to be divided and hatred to be spread among its community,” he said.
The Congress leader also paid tributes to the education system and the nursing community of the State while addressing a public meeting.