Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra might draw a blank in terms of opposition participation in Uttar Pradesh, but it will have full attendance in Jammu and Kashmir. Three former chief ministers will join the march. Besides Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of National Conference, People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti has also conveyed her acceptance with a strong tweet. MY Tarigami of CPI, another member of the Gupkaar Alliance, will also attend.
The yatra -- suspended for nine days of year-end festivities -- will resume on January 3 from the Delhi-Uttar-Pradesh border and reach Kashmir by the month-end.
"Ive been formally invited to join @RahulGandhi ji for his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir today. Salute his indomitable courage & 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 the PDP chief, who was the last Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir before it was placed under President's Rule. Two years later, its statehood and special status granted under the Constitution was revoked.
Ive been formally invited to join @RahulGandhi ji for his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir today. Salute his indomitable courage & 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.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) December 27, 2022
Congress leader and MP KC Venugopal, who has arrived in Jammu to finalise arrangements for Bharat Jodo Yatra, said Rahul Gandhi will hoist the national flag in Kashmir when yatra reaches here. He also confirmed the participation of Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Mr Tarigami in the yatra.
National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah had announced their participation earlier, when the yatra started.
Farooq Abdullah said that he would welcome the yatra at Lakhapur on the border of Jammu and Kashmir when it enters. Later, Omar Abdullah said when party president Farooq Abdullah has announced participation, everyone from the party will attend.
In Uttar Pradesh, none of the key opposition parties are likely to attend, though the Congress had extended invitation to the Samajwadi Party, Jayant Chaudhary's Rashtriya Lok Dal and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.
Jayant Chaudhary has already announced that he would skip the march, citing prior engagements. Akhilesh Yadav, a former ally of the Congress who has distanced himself from the party, is also unlikely to attend, though it is not clear whether he will send a representative.
Mayawati, who has been at loggerheads with the Congress over the last few years, has not officially responded either, but chances of her participation is practically nil, sources indicated.
Despite Congress reiterations that the yatra is not meant as a platform to pitch the party front and centre of the opposition ahead of the 2024 general elections, the perception of a political angle has been hard to dissipate. The absence of crucial opposition parties at the 3,750-km footmarch has only underscored the many-layered divisions in the camp.
Ahead of the 2019 elections, several parties including the Trinamool Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao, were seen as jockeying for the pole position within the opposition.
This time, not only did the TRS not attend the yatra, the Congress had targeted the ruling party of Telangana, saying TRS and AIMIM are giving "oxygen and booster dose" to the BJP.
In Delhi, AAP's appeal to the Centre to enforce Covid protocols for rallies was seen as a veiled attack on the yatra.
In Punjab, state Congress leader Amarinder Singh Raja Warring accused AAP and the BJP of targeting the yatra, saying they were feeling threatened by the "massive surge and support in favour of Congress" and were using the excuse of Covid in China.