Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will meet cashew workers, entrepreneurs, and others on Friday afternoon after having concluded the morning leg of party's Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kerala's Kollam.
Rahul is spearheading the Kanyakumari to Kashmir march of the party named Bharat Jodo Yatra with the objective of reviving the party and mounting an opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in light of the upcoming general elections in 2024.
Rahul's march on Friday began from Polayathodu and covered a distance of almost 13 km. On the way, he interacted with local people and went to a school at Neendakara where he interacted with students and posed for photos with them. Many senior citizens were seen breaking the security cordon to reach him and shake hands with him and attempted to get a picture with him.
A Kathakali artist performed a step in front of Rahul and he was was seen keenly observing it. Senior Congress leaders VD Satheesan and KC Venugopal were seen helping Rahul understand the traditional art form of Kerala.
"The beauty of Kerala is famous all over the world and the people here make Kerala even more beautiful. Met a lot of people during the visit this morning, thank you for their lots of love," Gandhi posted on Facebook.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is into its ninth day on Friday. It aims to cover 3,750 kms over 150 days on foot. It began on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7 and will conclude in Jammu and Kashmir. It entered Kerala on September 11 and would cover the state for 18 days. It will cover at least 13 states and Union territories, according to a route of the march shared by the party.
The Congress party has called the Bharat Jodo Yatra a "transformational moment" for Indian politics and a "decisive moment" for the party's revival. It has also hailed the Yatra as its biggest mass contact programme since Independence.
The Congress party is also comparing Rahul's march with Mahatma Gandhi's marches during the British rule.
After the meeting cashew workers and others and resting, the evening leg of the Yatra will begin at 5 PM from Chavara bus stand and conclude at Karunagapally where the Bharat Jodo Yatra members will halt for the night.
Apart from Satheesan and Venugopal, senior Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala, K Muraleedharan and RSP leader N K Premachandran among others were seen walking besides Gandhi.
In a separate incident, the Congress party suspended three of its workers who were threateninig local vegetatble vendors over donation for the Yatra.
The action came in the wake of a video in which the activists are seen purportedly threatening the vendor and creating a ruckus at the shop went viral on social media platforms. Kerala chief K Sudhakaran said the three party workers, involved in an "unacceptable incident", have been suspended with immediate effect.
Three party workers involved in an unacceptable incident in Kollam have been suspended with immediate effect. They do not represent our ideology and such behaviour is inexcusable. The party is crowdfunding small donations voluntarily unlike others who get corporate donations.— K Sudhakaran (@SudhakaranINC) September 16, 2022
Admitting that the incident has taken the sheen off the Yatra, which has been progressing well with the support of people from all walks of life, Kollam District Congress Committee President (DCC) P Rajendra Prasad said the party would not tolerate such practices.
"The trio were activists of the Mandalam Congress committee here. As their act brought embarrassment to the party and the leadership, we have acted swiftly with the consent of the AICC and the KPCC and suspended them immediately," he told PTI, adding that the mandalam committee to which they belonged was also dissolved, the leader added.
A group of Congress workers reached the shop and asked for donations for 'Bharat Jodo Yatra'. I gave Rs 500 but they demanded Rs 2000. They damaged weighing machines, and threw away vegetables: S Fawaz, shop owner pic.twitter.com/Rmstle68DG— ANI (@ANI) September 16, 2022
(With PTI inputs)