Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam
Congress party started the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ on 7th September 2022 from Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir. In this yatra, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is walking on foot from Kanyakumari towards Jammu and Kashmir. From South towards North covering 12 states, the yatra is believed to cover more than 3500 Kms in 150 days. This is seen as one of the most ambitious efforts in recent decades to shape Congress’s destiny. Rahul is walking 20 kms a day – which starts at 6 am for him. Sporting an unkempt beard Rahul Gandhi, who always kept a low political profile, is drawing crowds. Congress believes this response to Rahul is because of India’s unity, social harmony, and cultural diversity.
Suddenly from billboards, Congress leaders are into crowds. Leaders of Congress are shedding ‘rules’ maintained within the party to join a bonfire on the side of the road. Congress got accustomed to being in office and never did any such crusading campaigns after Indian independence. But because of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, this latest shift in Congress’s working style is visible. BJP-RSS always followed this ‘padayatras’ as a social mobilization path. After facing a lot of criticism and suffering defeats at the hands of the BJP, Rahul must consistently exercise this political role to cover the loss of voters. While walking across India, Rahul Gandhi got another chance to take Congress on a new route for political revival. Raising voices against economic, social, and political issues won’t help. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Congress needs another towering face to give ‘oxygen’ to the fainting party fortunes.
As this walk continues, it has by now thrown up many political talks in the shape of controversies. The root of the debates became the pair of shoes that Rahul Gandhi is wearing to walk in this yatra then pictures of Rahul holding the hand of different females went viral and Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan (who has been a critic of some of the Modi government’s economic policies) joining this yatra added to the list of controversies. Adding peak to these debates was former Congress MP Jagdish Tytler when he was seen at a meeting related to the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Soon social media was flooded with posts that referred to Tytler as a ‘murderer of Sikhs”. This forced Congress to keep Tytler away from yatra considering the sentiments of Sikhs. Then a wind of politics around this yatra blew more when the Union health minister wrote a letter to Rahul Gandhi to warn him that the Bharat Jodo Yatra would be stopped if Covid protocols were not followed. Later Salman Khurshid’s shocking statement came when he compared Rahul with Lord Ram (God of the Hindu religion). Many controversies are out on this yatra and surely much more is left in the ongoing debate.
As this historical yatra is in the last phase a new political structure will appear when this yatra passes through Jammu and culminates in Kashmir with national flag hoisting. J&K Congress workers have high hope for party revival with this yatra and transformed Rahul Gandhi. Preparations are underway in both Jammu and Kashmir to provide an extensive platform for this yatra. All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary K C Venugopal declared that Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, and many other leaders from various parties would join Rahul Gandhi in this yatra. Although an ideal political arrangement is being planned by Congress, many eyebrows will be raised when different leaders will walk with Rahul because the focus in J&K is on claiming credit for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35-A. This mass reach program of Congress will become an electoral fighting tool in J&K. But will this all matter politically in 2024? We all seek an answer to this single question. Let’s wait and watch the growing BJP and changing Congress.
Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam