The Bharatiya Janata Party government used all its strength to stop the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told a gathering of the Indian diaspora in the United States on Wednesday.

The Congress had said that the Bharat Jodo Yatra, or Unite India March, was aimed at countering the politics of hatred espoused by the BJP. Led by Gandhi, the march started from Kanyakumari on September 7 and covered over 3,000 kilometres before concluding in Srinagar on January 30.

At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Gandhi said that before kicking off the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress had realised that normal tools such as holding public meetings, which had historically been used in Indian politics, were not working anymore.

“All the instruments we needed to do politics in India, they were controlled by the BJP and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh],” the former Lok Sabha MP said. “People are threatened, agencies are used against them. So we also were finding that in someway it had become difficult to act politically and that’s why we decided to walk from the southern most tip of India to Srinagar.”

He added: “They used the police, but nothing worked and the effect of the yatra increased. This happened because of your help. Not only in India but Bharat Jodo is an idea that is in all your hearts. And it is about respecting each other and being affectionate with each other. It is not about being violent or arrogant towards each other.”

Gandhi also accused the media of failing to present a true picture of India and promoting a political narrative that is far from reality.

“It was very clear to me in the yatra that it’s in the media’s interest to project these things, it helps the BJP,” Gandhi said. “So, don’t think that everything you see in the media is the truth. India is not what the media shows.”

The Congress leader, citing his party’s victory in the May 10 Karnataka Assembly elections, said that the BJP can be defeated if the Opposition is “aligned properly”.

The Congress won 135 out of 224 seats in the polls, registering the biggest victory in the state by any party since 1989. The BJP could manage to get only 66 seats and was voted out from the only state in which it was in power in south India.

“What is not well understood is the mechanics that we used [in the elections],” Gandhi said at Wednesday’s event. He added that the Congress had completely changed its approach and “elements of what happened in Karnataka came out of the Bharat Jodo Yatra”.

The politician also took a dig at Narendra Modi, saying that there are people in India who think they know more than God and that the prime minister is “one such specimen”.

“We have a group of people in India who are absolutely convinced that they know everything,” he said. “They can sit with God and explain to him what’s going on... If you sat Modi ji with God, he will explain to God how the universe works and God will get confused about what have I created.”

He added: “They think they can explain history to historians, science to scientists and warfare to the army. But at the core of it is mediocrity. They’re not ready to listen.”

Gandhi will be touring three cities in the US and addressing the Indian diaspora. During his six-day-long visit, he will meet American political leaders, Wall Street executives and interact with university students.

He is scheduled to conclude his trip with a public gathering in New York on June 4 at the Javits Center.

Gandhi’s tour comes weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US from June 21 to June 24.