The image of Rahul Gandhi as “Pappu”, created primarily by Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS during past eight years, does have something to do with the self-destructive actions of former AICC president; including casual approach to national issues, repeatedly running away from shouldering responsibility of heading the organization.
The party strategists came up with an innovative idea of neutralizing such negativity through a Pan India mass contact programme which was done through “Bharat Jodo yatra”(Unite the India).
The Yatra ALMOST concluded at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on January 29 with the unfurling of tricolor, thereby creating a history. Starting on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu the Yatra covered 4,080 km in 135 days and passed through 12 states and two union territories - Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir.
Rahul Gandhi addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings, 13 press conferences and more than 275 planned walking interactions besides about 100 sitting interactions.
Political analysts opine that the think tank of Congress has focused on the change of image of Rahul Gandhi’s personality, motivating the party cadres and leaders in the country to take on Modi’s strong BJP in ensuing nine assemblies in 2023, and then the parliamentary polls in 2024. It is also an attempt to bring metamorphosis to Rahul’s image for countrywide acceptance, to fill the void of opposition leader.
Even as the assembly polls held recently in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were kept out of the ambit of Rahul, thereby sending a signal that nothing will be permitted to distract from the core issue of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’; and the response surpassed even the calculations of the planners in Delhi.
Notwithstanding the utterances of the IT cell and the claim of some leaders of BJP that Rahul’s Yatra is a flop show and they are not worried; the truth is otherwise.
There is some concern in the corridor of power in Delhi and BJP’s IT cell vehemently attacked Rahul, but same boomeranged as IT cell of Congress, for a change, retaliated with vengeance which paid a rich dividend.
The BJP IT cell had raked up a controversy about the Rs 41,000 T shirt which Rahul was wearing during the yatra which was effectively rebuffed by the IT Congress cell through release of pic. of Modi in ten lakh suit.
Rahul Gandhi repeatedly focused on the sole motive of Yatra and refused to be sidetracked by other issues. Rahul denied the political motive of the Yatra and reiterated that it is aimed at uniting people of India and spreading the message of love especially in view of hatred and divisive policies being spread by BJP and RSS.
Second, he highlighted the burning issues like unemployment which touched a maximum limit in 43 years, skyrocketing prices of essential commodities making survival of poor people extremely difficult and complete sell out of TV channels as well as print media proprietors to ruling dispensation in India.
He repeatedly said “it is an attempt to know the people of India from close quarters which cannot be done while sitting in air-conditioned rooms in Delhi.
It is a learning exercise of pain and struggle of poor people after walking for 20 to 25 Kms per day, to personally meet them, especially when they are thronging to share their agony and torture.
RSS and BJP spend hundreds of crores to denigrate my image in the perception of people hence I am meeting them while walking in cold, heat and rain to expose these forces and people have given me an overwhelming response in the entire country.”
Rahul Gandhi’s ‘BHARAT JODO YATRA’ starting from Kanyakumari to Kashmir aimed at rejuvenation of the party and re-establishing a missing connect with grassroots level workers.
The party strategists claimed that yatra was bound to create an impact like historical Yatras of L.K. Advani in 1990 (Rath Yatra to arouse sentiments of Hindutva) followed by Murli Manohar’s Yatra in 14 states to further mobilize Hindus on Ram temple issue, Kanshi Ram’s nationwide campaign (creating the awareness amongst the Dalits and backwards about their rights to fight against supremacy of higher castes in the system) and Jagan Reddy’s statewide journey after 19 month jail term; leading him to the helm of affairs as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
In this backdrop, the analysts do admit that Rahul’s Yatra could be billed as Congress party’s biggest mass contact programme since independence which may re-energize the demoralized workers besides creating confidence amongst people whose woes and survival problems were highlighted during the entire route.
Political observers opine that Rahul’s yatra might serve twin purposes. First, it might mobilize party leaders and workers for 2024 Lok Sabha elections which would decide the fate of the party.
Second, rebellion in the party has affected morale of the party workers and leaders who would repose their faith in the fighting spirit and commitment of Rahul Gandhi though he had opted out of the race of regular president; hence Gandhi family loyalist, Malik Arjun Kharge was elected national president of Congress.
Congress leaders claim that It has snatched a potential issue of family rule of Gandhis from BJP as Kharge is a Dalit from Karnataka besides being the most experienced parliamentarian which may politically help the Congress party in elections.
Keeping in view the dwindling fortunes of Congress in the entire country, Bharat Jodo Yatra might act as a ‘SANJEEVINI’ for the party; described by senior leaders as a ‘Turning Point’ in India’s political history as Rahul is highlighting the issues of common people who are reeling under skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, GST imposed even on curd, ghee, milk etc., high prices of petrol and diesel, crores of educated youths face unemployment problem, industry is struggling to come out of Covid19 negative impact, farmers’ survival problem, a dangerous widening divide in the society to win elections, etc.
The yatra had commenced from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and it moved northwards, passing through Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Nilambur, Mysuru, Bellary, Raichur, Vikarabad, Nanded, Jalgaon, Indore, Kota, Dausa, Alwar, Bulandshahr, Delhi, Ambala, Pathankot and Jammu, before entering Kashmir.
As per field reports, it got equal response in southern as well as northern states which is so crucial in view of constant electoral defeats of Congress in the past. Hence it may send better signals at national level. In a new twist, straps of opposition ruled states lent an open support to Yatra which must be satisfying to Congress.
Experts opine that ruling BJP has seriously taken Rahul’s attempt of creating the pro people image and establishing direct Connect with party cadres though it has dismissed it as a non-event which may not help in long run as it could be far from reality.
People may appreciate one thing that there is at least one leader of the national party in the entire opposition who has embarked upon the Yatra to highlight their woes which are being ignored and conveniently put under the carpet by the Modi government.
(K S Tomar is A political analyst and national columnist based in Shimla)
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.