Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is set to kick off his countrywide padyatra (foot march) against the BJP-led NDA government’s policies on farm, land and labour reforms from Vidarbha in Maharashtra by month-end.
Congress sources said April 30 has been fixed as the tentative date for the launch of the campaign that will take Rahul to different parts of the country, especially those where distressed farmers have committed suicide or have been severely hit by unseasonal rain and hailstorm.
“Despite extreme weather conditions, he will cover a distance of 15-18 km a day on an average during the padyatra,” a senior functionary said.
The move would replicate the strategy adopted by former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi after their poll defeats in 1977 and 1989, respectively. Both the leaders had undertaken India tour to renew their ties with the masses and meet ordinary party workers who felt alienated by the central leadership.
The party did make a comeback on both the occasions as Indira Gandhi returned to rule in 1980 and Rajiv Gandhi’s direct contact with masses followed by his assassination helped the Congress regain power in 1991, with veteran PV Narasimha Rao taking over as the Prime Minister.
Perhaps, Rahul is keen to emulate his grandmother and father to boost the sagging political fortunes of the Congress, which secured its worst ever tally of 44 seats in this summer’s Lok Sabha elections and was also humiliated in successive assembly polls.
According to a well-crafted strategy, Vidarbha has been selected as the place for Rahul’s launch pad given that the region, once known as the country’s cotton belt, is infamous for suicides by debt-trapped farmers.
About 445 farmers are said to have ended their lives in the past four months.
Rahul is also expected to visit Marathwada and western Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and other parts of the country. The campaign will take place during the ongoing budget session, the first half of which he missed due to his leave of absence.
Read:Seen and heard after 2 months: Rahul Gandhi meets farmers in Delhi
Read: Resurgent Rahul, farmer's suicide puts land bill on backburner