In a unique move, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had started 3,300 km Narmada Parikrama (circumabulation of the river Narmada). Singh had started his journey, on foot, from the Brahman Ghat at Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh on September 30. He had even entered Gujarat with his companions prior to assembly polls. But he was reluctant to discuss politics. He walked through 20 Assembly constituencies in poll-bound Gujarat, including tribal-dominated ones like Nandod, Dediapada, Jhagadia and Netrang. Singh has maintained that the Parikrama, which comes a year ahead of the polls in his home state, Madhya Pradesh, was a purely religious and spiritual exercise.
During this yatra, Rahul Gandhi bacame the party President. The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister seems to be unpreturbed by all the action. However, he said that he has congratulated Rahul Gandhi. He was categorical it had little to do with the fact that Madhya Pradesh goes to polls this year — though the yatra, through three states, would end up covering 110 of the 230 constituencies in MP.
“Arre Darogaji, aur kitna baki hai (How much farther to go)?” Singh, a walking stick in hand, jovially asks a local constable he spots along the way. “Narmade Har (Hail Narmada!),” he calls out to villagers walking in the opposite direction. “I know doctor saab. I keep getting feedback that he is very strict,” he says, patting a man on his back and talking about his father. “Arre Amrita suno,” he calls out at another point to journalist wife Amrita Rai, who is also doing the yatra with him, to introduce her to a senior local leader.
“I stopped counting my age once I completed 50. For more than four decades, it has been a habit with me to do 70 minutes of yoga and pranayam. I can cover the distance faster too, but there are a group of women with me so I walk a little slowly,” Singh was quoted as saying by IE. “Always between 78 and 81 kg”, “a little overweight for my height”, he is not keeping count of the weight he may have lost, he adds.
Rai admits she has found the yatra tougher. “I always liked nature and wanted to walk along the river, but did not realise it would be so demanding physically. I have never walked this much. One can overcome mental challenges, but this takes some effort.” Among the few political questions Singh answers are about whether he is in the race for Madhya Pradesh CM’s post, should the Congress win. “I have no political aspirations for MP but I want to see the Congress come back to power in the state,” he asserts.
Singh, however, evaded questions on the recent Gujarat verdict, and the triple talaq Bill brought by the Narendra Modi government.