Jammu, Jan 23 (PTI) Defending Congress’ decision to start Bharat Jodo Yatra to “unite” the country, Rahul Gandhi on Monday said the opposition party was forced to undertake the 3500-km foot march after it was not allowed to speak on the pressing public issues in Parliament.
He slammed the BJP government at the Centre for demonetisation, “hasty implementation” of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the recently launched Agniveer scheme.
Gandhi alleged that the government is “facilitating” flight of money into the coffers of a few corporators and ruining the small businesses across the country.
“The democracy in the country is under attack which is a major challenge for the nation. Before the commencement of the Yatra, we tried to raise the issues like demonetisation, GST, farmers’ bill and China’s aggression in Parliament, both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, but we were not allowed and the mikes were being switched off,” the former Congress president told a gathering at Satwari chowk here.
Gandhi reached Jammu on the 129th day of the Yatra after resuming from Vijaypur in Samba district in the morning, covering over 20 kilometres in six-and-a-half hours. After a night stay in Sidhra, the Yatra is scheduled to leave for Kashmir and it will enter there after Republic Day.
“We have come to open the shops of love in the markets of hatred. With this Yatra, we could see lakhs and crores of people have opened their shops of love, braving rains, cold and hot weather.”
He said the people from all walks of life including farmers, small traders, women and children shared their pain with him across different states during the Yatra and they all live together with love in this country.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday had accused Gandhi of spreading hatred among people in order to gain power, and alleged that he was tarnishing India’s image on international platforms by conducting the Yatra.
“…These days, Rahul Gandhi is going around saying in his Bharat Jodo Yatra that there is hatred everywhere in India. Rahulji, what has happened to you? You want to gain power by creating hatred. Power cannot be achieved by creating hatred, it can be done only by earning the public’s trust and love,” Singh had told reporters in Bhopal.
Gandhi, while referring to the Agniveer scheme launched by the government for recruitment in the armed forces, alleged that it was meant to weaken the Army as seven to eight years are required to learn any skill.
“Army is like a family where many years are needed to allow a bond to build among the soldiers which later plays a great role in case of a war. It cannot be achieved in one or two years and the BJP thinks that the soldiers are completing their training in six months,” he said, adding Army officers know it very well and they are against this wrong policy.
“By relieving a trained soldier after four years without a pension under Agniveer, they have closed the doors for the youth who otherwise used to look forward for recruitment in the armed forces to serve the country,” Gandhi said.
The country was assuring the soldier that after 15 years of service it would take care of him, he added.
The Congress leader said the unemployment and growing inflation is the result of the wrong policies of the government, which is only working for two to three corporators.
“Demonetisation and GST was a weapon to eliminate small traders and benefit these corporators. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and BJP have broken the backbone of the country by finishing small medium businesses which was the major sector providing employment in the country. This is the main reason for unemployment and price rise in the country as well,” Gandhi said.
He alleged that all the money is going into the pockets of these few corporators, while the rest of the population is suffering from poverty.
The Congress leader also accused the media of not highlighting the real issues of public importance like unemployment, inflation, and taking away land from the poor in J-K.
“For them, Gandhi wearing a T-shirt is an issue…I want to tell them that it is the people who are giving me so much love that I do not feel cold,” he said.
Gandhi said they have changed the timing of the start of the daily foot march from 5 am to 7 am on reaching Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the security guidelines.
The Congress’ march started from Kanyakumari on September 7 and entered Jammu and Kashmir from Punjab on Thursday.
The Yatra is scheduled to end in Srinagar on January 30 with the hoisting of the national flag at the Congress headquarters by Gandhi.