Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who set off a national debate when he walked the Bharat Jodo Yatra in a T-shirt in north India’s cold winter, donned a pheran to ward off Kashmir’s bone-freezing chill on Monday.
As the snow fell steadily, carpeting much of the Valley in white, the former Congress president was seen in a sleeveless jacket over his trademark white T-shirt earlier in the morning and then in the traditional long cloak worn by Kashmiris.
Soon after attending an event at the Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters on Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar, Gandhi, who walked over 4,000 kilometres in 136 days, emerged in a grey pheran as he headed to the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket stadium for the closing ceremony of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Gandhi’s white T-shirt hit the limelight when the yatra entered Delhi, his supporters praising his resilience while his opponents criticised him.
In a show of opposition strength, leaders of several national and regional parties braved snowfall and bone-chilling cold to share the stage with Congress leaders at a rally organised to mark the culmination of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Srinagar.
The Congress rally was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium amid tight security and heavy snowfall.
Besides Congress president Mallikarjun Karge and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Wayanad Lok Sabha MP was also joined by leaders from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, the Communist Party of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Indian Union Muslim League.
Addressing the rally to mark the Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra, CPI leader D Raja urged all secular parties of the country to unite.
“We all fought together for the independence of the country and liberated the country from British Raj. All secular parties must come together to liberate the country from BJP Raj,” he said.
Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and NC leader Omar Abdullah asked former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to undertake another yatra from west to east of the country.
“On this last function of the yatra, I congratulate Gandhi on behalf of myself, my father and my party. This yatra has been successful. This yatra has shown that there are people in the country who like the BJP but there are also those who like the other idea which is of brotherhood,” he said.
“I request Rahul Gandhi to undertake a yatra from west to east. I would like to walk with him,” Abdullah added.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the country sees a ray of hope in Gandhi.
RSP leader Premchandran declared his party’s solidarity with the Congress leader.
“A historic movement was undertaken. Rahul Gandhi has proved that he is the right leader to fight against these divisive forces,” he said.
During the course of the yatra, Rahul Gandhi addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings, 13 press conferences. He had over 275 planned walking interactions and more than 100 sitting interactions.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi hoisted the national flag at the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ camp site in Srinagar and followed it with a fun snowball fight with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Donning a white T-shirt and a sleeveless jacket, the former Congress chief hoisted the flag at the camp site in Panthachowk to the tunes of the national anthem played to mark the culmination of the yatra.
In a brief address to the ‘Bharat Yatris’, Gandhi thanked them for their love, affection and support through the 136-day foot march, which began in Kanyakumari on September 7 last year.
The Gandhi siblings later joined Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and scores of other party leaders at the Pradesh Congress Committee office on the Maulana Azad Road where another flag hoisting ceremony was held.
The national anthem was played after this.
The local administration had made stringent security arrangements for the programme as Lal Chowk was off limits for vehicular traffic for the second consecutive day.
Thousands of office goers had to foot the distance of around a kilometre or more to reach their work places in Lal Chowk and the adjoining areas.
Gandhi had on Sunday unfurled the national flag at the iconic clock tower in Lal Chowk to mark the end of the foot march of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.