Several surveys have pointed to a curious fact about the world’s largest democracy: a significant number of Indians want autocracy. In fact, discussions about the messy nature of Indian democracy and how this is slowing the country’s development are common in middle-class living rooms.

Which, if you think about it, is a bit loopy. There is almost nothing more incredible about India’s democracy than its tumultuous nature. An absolutist governance system could be disastrous – look at what army dictatorship driven by much the same opposition to “chaotic” democracy has done in Pakistan.

Besides, a santised system would simply be boring.

So for me, one of the biggest benefits of reporting on the big political palooza that is the Congress’s cross-country Bharat Jodo Yatra is seeing the diversity of the people who participate in India’s political system.

Now in Karnataka, the march, led by Rahul Gandhi, began on September 7 in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Over approximately 150 days, it aims to get to Jammu and Kashmir. The 3,500-km route will pass through 12 states.

Here’s are some of the participants in the march I met as it entered Karnataka.

Priyesh Pandey, Uttar Pradesh

From Gorakhpur district, Priyesh Pandey, a postgraduate student at the Banaras Hindu University started his political life on campus as a member of the All India Students’ Association, the student wing of the far left Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation.

“But then, I thought, they might be saying the right things but what is the use if I am to make an impact in Purvanchal?” asked Pandey, pointing to the fact that outside a handful of universities, the CPI(ML) has little presence on the ground.

As a result, while still not officially associated with the Congress, Pandey is moving ideologically towards it. “I am exploring being centre left,” he said.

He plans to support the yatra when it reaches his home state of Uttar Pradesh.

Noorie Khan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kathi Karthika Goud, Telangana

“We met at the yatra and became best friends,” said Noorie Khan, a Congress worker from Ujjain, who has been participating in politics since her college days.

Kathi Karthika Goud, on the other hand, is an architect-turned-political worker from Hyderabad, who first entered public life as a media personality championing the low-prestige Telangana dialect of the Telugu language.

“She is from north, I am from south, she is Muslim and I am Hindu,” Goud said. “This is what the yatra is about. To jodo, join people.”

Both are the part of the core 100 or so yatris who will make the entire trek from Kanyakumari to Kashmir along with Rahul Gandhi.

Sharmila Nambiar, Karnataka

Sharmila Nambiar drove down from Bengaluru to Mysuru to show her support to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. “We are all seeing what is happening in the country,” she said.

When I expressed appreciation for her quirky sign, she explained that it was a two-person job: “I thought of it and my daughter made the poster.”

Virendra Singh Bagoria, Haryana

Fifty-three year old Virendra Singh Bagoria is, in his own words, an “andolanjeevi” – a term coined by Narendra Modi to mock activists but now being taken back. “I am either in jail or on the street,” he said, marching with a massive Indian flag.

I first noticed Bagoria because at the end of every march, he’d resolutely shake the hand of every child he’d meet on the way back to his camp. “Bachchon se mil ke dil taza ho jata hai,” he said. Meeting children livens me up.

Unlike most participants in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Bagoria isn’t a Congress member but a part of the Swaraj India Party, founded by psephologist Yogendra Yadav.

Dr Purnima MB, Karnataka

Purnima is a retired medical lecturer from Bengaluru who said she did not follow politics for much of her life. “But when Gauri Lankesh was murdered, I was shaken,” she said, referring to the 2017 assassination of the Bengaluru journalist who was a trenchant critic of Hindutva extremism. “We all used to read Lankesh Patrika.”

“What is happening is terrible, it is horrible. I can’t believe this is our country,” Purnima says with anguish. “Can you imagine, rapists are being garlanded? We can’t keep quiet anymore, we have to do something. I didn’t know what to do so I thought the Bharat Jodo Yatra was an opportunity.”

Osman, Kerala

Osman is a veteran of the art of Puli Kali, the tiger dance from Kerala. He’s been dancing for two decades. He and his troupe performed at the Bharat Jodo Yatra as it crossed over from Kerala and Tamil Nadu into Karnataka.

Does he like the Congress or Rahul Gandhi? He shrugged and declined to answer. He is a professional and his job is to dance. “We dance for all parties, even for you,” he joked.

Poorvika CV, Karnataka

It is very clear that Poorvika, a higher secondary student, is a fan specifically of Rahul Gandhi. Only incidentally is she a Congress supporter.

“He speaks well,” she said. “We need more young leaders, they will attract young people.”

Poorvika shot over straight from college to hear Gandhi speak in the town of Pandavapura in Karnataka, which is where the Bharat Jodo Yatra concluded its Monday leg.