CHANDIGARH/AMRITSAR: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday offered prayers at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a day ahead of the start of the Punjab leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
He landed at the Amritsar airport Tuesday afternoon after concluding the Haryana leg of the march in Ambala district.
Sporting a turban, Gandhi paid obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple.
Gandhi was accompanied by Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa, local MP Gurjit Singh Aujla and other party leaders.
Several Punjab Congress leaders till Tuesday morning were not aware of Gandhi’s visit to Amritsar.
Congress General Secretary in-charge Communications, Jairam Ramesh had told reporters earlier in the day in Ambala that Gandhi will be going to the Golden Temple.
After his Amritsar visit, Gandhi will return to Sirhind in Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab Tuesday evening.
Earlier in the morning, Gandhi resumed the foot march from Shahpur in Ambala Cantt during which he was also joined by party leader Raj Babbar.
The Yatra had entered Haryana’s Panipat from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh on Thursday last and later it also passed through Karnal and Kurukshetra districts before concluding in Ambala district.
Prior to that, in the first phase in Haryana, the Yatra had passed through Nuh, Gurugram and Faridabad districts from December 21 to 23.
Ramesh said the Yatra covered 255 km in Haryana during eight days crossing seven districts.
“In the afternoon today, there will not be Bharat Jodo Yatra. We will go to Punjab now and halt for the night in Sirhind. In the morning, flag transfer will happen from Haryana PCC to Punjab PCC.From Wednesday morning, we will begin the Punjab leg of the Yatra,” he said.
The Yatra on Wednesday will pass through Mandi Gobindgarh and halt for the night at Khanna.
He said the Yatra daily covers 25 km in two phases. However, on January 12 during the Punjab leg, the distance will be covered in a single stretch beginning morning after which the Yatra will take a break for that day in the afternoon and for the entire day on January 13 in view of Lohri festival.
During the Haryana leg of the Yatra, Gandhi was among others accompanied by senior Congress leaders Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kumari Selja, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Deepender Singh Hooda, K C Venugopal and State Congress chief Udai Bhan.
A large number of locals joined the march as it passed through Haryana.
Replying to a question, Ramesh, without taking any names, charged that hatred is being spread in the country in the name of language, region, caste and religion.
“While there is diversity in our society, that is being misused so that society can be divided.Through Bharat Jodo Yatra, our aim is to take this message that Congress party unites, it does not break Our constitution makers had said unity in diversity,” he said.
“To keep our diversity secure is the primary responsibility of the Congress party. We will fight against any such ideology which uses our diversity to divide society for electoral gains,” he said.
The Congress leader also hit out at the BJP for criticising former Army chief General Deepak Kapoor after he participated in the Bharat Jodo Yartra in Haryana.
Ramesh, who was accompanied by former Haryana Chief Minister Hooda and AICC in-charge for Haryana, Shaktisinh Gohil, said the Yatra received an overwhelming response in Haryana, during which Gandhi met and interacted with a cross-section of people, including ex-servicemen, farmers and sportspersons.
During Gandhi’s interaction with leaders of various farmer bodies including Rakesh Tikait, the latter put up some issues before the former Congress chief including legal guarantee for crop MSP.
They also apprised Gandhi that the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2021 was not in the interests of farmers.
Ramesh also took a dig at the BJP government in Haryana over the “bad road condition” in the state.
In the seven districts through which the Yatra passed through, “I did not see roads, but potholes,” he claimed referring to state highways.
“Condition of roads in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh is bad. It is a blot on Haryana because at one time an example of good roads in the state used to be given. I am not talking of national highways, but state highways,” Ramesh said.
Hooda said the Yatra received an overwhelming public response in the state and added the foot march has taken shape of “people’s movement”.
Hitting out at the BJP-led government in Haryana, Hooda dubbed it as the “most corrupt, non-performing and a failed government”.
The Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, will conclude in Srinagar by January 30, with Gandhi hoisting the national flag in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
The march has so far covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.