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HomeIndia NewsRahul Gandhi sets off on national march ahead of India polls

Rahul Gandhi sets off on national march ahead of India polls

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THE leader of India’s main Congress opposition party, Rahul Gandhi, last Sunday (14) began a new cross-country march from a troubled northeastern state, aiming to generate political momentum to take on prime minister Narendra Modi in general elections due by May.

The “Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra”, or Unite India Justice March, comes weeks after Gandhi’s Congress party suffered shock losses in elections in three states, in a setback to the opposition which intends to challenge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Gandhi walked for 3,500km (2,200 miles) from the southern tip of India to Kashmir in the north, ending a 135-day march in January 2023 in a move to help revive the Congress and his popularity.

The latest march, setting off from the remote northeastern Manipur state, will cover 6,713km (4,200 miles) over 66 days, passing through 15 states, with some of the journey via car.

Gandhi decided to start in Manipur, a state that has witnessed fierce fighting since last year.

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At least 180 people have died and thousands were displaced in clashes that erupted after a court order suggested privileges granted to minority Kukis be extended to majority Meitei community.

“I was determined that the march should begin in Manipur… as we understand the pain, loss, hurt and sadness you have been through,” he said.

Ahead of the march, the Congress party said it was not a political campaign. However, the list of concerns that will be highlighted during the march – unemployment, poverty, democracy and diversity and the BJP’s “politics of hatred and violence” – were key election issues for the opposition. Several opposition parties, led by Congress, last year formed a 28-party alliance called INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) to jointly fight the BJP in national elections. But it has been riven by differences over giving up seats to field a common candidate against the BJP.

Gandhi’s latest march will pass through states which are strongholds of key INDIA partners, and the extent of their participation will indicate the health of the opposition, analysts said.

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