Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh including former partner Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have rejected the offer by the Congress party to join Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra which enters the state on January 3.
While Akhilesh Yadav evaded a direct response to questions on whether he will accept the Congress’ invitation, party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told The Indian Express it was “unlikely”, adding that the SP chief has “party programmes lined up” and that the party has not received any formal invitation yet.
This is a similar position that the Mayawati-led BSP has taken as well. Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal has also expressed his inability to participate in the Bharat Jodo Yatra citing prior engagements. There is no clarity yet on whether these parties will send a representative or not.
Among other invitees whom the Congress has sent letters on behalf of Rahul Gandhi, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party led by Om Prakash Rajbhar is likely to take the SP’s line, a position that SP MLA Shivpal Singh Yadav could also follow.
“Humari bhavna hai ki Bharat jodo, humari bhavna hai uske saath. Lekin sawal yeh hai ki BJP hatayega kaun (We also believe in uniting India, we agree there. But the question is who will oust the BJP)?” Akhilesh said in response to a question about joining the Yatra.
Gupkar Alliance backs Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra
In contrast to Uttar Pradesh, the situation will be starkly different in Jammu and Kashmir which will be the last stop for Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra which has covered over 3,000 km of the scheduled 3,570-kilometre Yatra that began on September 7.
Major political parties including the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party in the Valley have voiced support for the Yatra. The Congress has said that Rahul Gandhi will be joined by former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah in the final leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
“I am very much happy to say that Farooq Abdullahji, Omar Abdullahji, Mehbooba Muftiji, (Yousuf) Tarigamiji (CPI-M leader), are all ready to join the Yatra. This is one of the happiest moments for all of us. And not just here, everywhere, all like-minded people who do not believe in the divisive politics of the BJP and the Union government are joining this Yatra,” Venugopal told reporters in Srinagar.
“I’ve been formally invited to join @RahulGandhi ji for his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir today. Salute his indomitable courage and I believe it is my duty to stand with someone who has the courage to challenge fascist forces. Will be joining him in his march towards a better India,” tweeted Mehbooba Mufti, confirming her participation in the Yatra.
Notably, Mufti, a fierce critic of the BJP’s Kashmir policy, has been supportive of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. “For us, it is beyond politics, beyond political partisanship,” PDP leader Naeem Akhtar told The Indian Express.
The camaraderie between the former alliance partners may not matter much as elections, slated to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2023, approach. While the Congress and NC would not mind partnering together, any association with the PDP, which has taken a strong stance against the Centre over the abrogation of Article 370, could cost them electorally in the Jammu region.