Mumbai: Sports shoes, jogging, brisk walk and exercise are buzzwords now among the Congress leaders, as they break sweat to put their best foot forward for the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Clocking over 1,000 km as it snaked through four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is all set to enter Maharashtra on 7 November.
And the local leaders are going ahead full steam to ensure that they match Rahul Gandhi step by step even if it’s for short stretches. On his part, the former Congress president is covering nearly 25 km everyday as part of the yatra.
Sources in the Congress say it is a difficult task to cover long stretches on foot if one is not used to such exertions. “It requires patience. You need to start preparing for at least a year for such a thing. If you start walking without preparation for so many kilometers, your muscles will get tightened,” said a senior leader.
“I have been walking every morning since walking is good for health,” former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan told the media.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra will enter Maharashtra from Chavan’s stronghold Nanded.
Chavan said that due to his profession, he doesn’t get a fixed time to exercise anymore. “But in the last four to five days, I have started walking so that I will be ready by the time of the yatra.”
The yatra, which will traverse through Maharashtra till 20 November, will cover Nanded in Marathwada region and districts of Hingoli, Washim, Akola, and Buldhana in Vidarbha as per the route planned by All India Congress Committee (AICC).
There will be two public rallies — in Nanded and in Shegaon, Akola district.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar will reach Nanded on 8 November and join the yatra on the next day, according to Chavan. The joining dates of Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya have not been confirmed.
Congress leaders have started exercising and increasing the intensity of their regimes.
Sources in Congress pointed out that Palus-Kadegaon MLA Vishwajeet Kadam is a former national football player and has a habit of jogging every day. But for the yatra, he has been jogging 6 km daily for the past few days, they said.
ThePrint tried contacting Kadam, but the calls went unanswered.
Mumbai Congress president Bhai Jagtap said he has been working out regularly for the past 15 years. “I have a small gym in my house where I work out. I am used to walking 5 km everyday, so it is not a problem.”
He plans to join the yatra for seven days and walk alongside Rahul during that time.
“I exercise and walk regularly for eight to nine km. I will walk for however long I can,” said Yashomati Thakur, former cabinet minister who is in Buldhana overseeing preparations. She added that it is an “inspiration” to see that their leader (Rahul) is “so fit”.
Another leader Satej Patil told ThePrint that he is taking the effort to walk a little longer everyday. “I already have a daily fitness regime. Apart from that, I am trying to walk more everyday,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, who is currently busy overseeing the preparations, told ThePrint that being a farmer and a Warkari (a community that traces its roots to the Bhakti movement), he is used to walking and is looking forward to joining the yatra.
Along with physical strength and stamina, the yatra requires mental strength, said the senior leader quoted in the beginning. “It’s not so easy. You don’t know your body. This is a completely different story than walking for one to two hours everyday.”
Sources in the Congress added that not all the leaders would complete the 380 km of stretch in the state. They will come and go as per their schedule as many senior leaders also have managerial responsibilities in the yatra.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)