Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March), led by Rahul Gandhi, is on the move. The Congress party’s grand intent of ‘Bharat Jodo’ feels more like ‘Congress Jodo’, considering the internal fractures within the party.
If Rahul Gandhi is serious about uniting a diverse nation like ours, he should be rabidly secular. By keeping mum as a priest in Kerala mocked the Hindu religion, Rahul lost a golden opportunity to secure his secular credentials.
Now, Congress is well within its right to have a Bharat Jodo Yatra, but to equate it to Dandi March is ignorant. Telangana Congress President A. Revanth Reddy equated the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi with the Dandi March of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Dandi March of 1930 was a 386-kilometre-long march in scorching heat led by a frail 62-year-old Gandhiji, who wore just slippers, a dhoti and a shawl. This march started the Civil Disobedience Movement, leading a nation to freedom by non-violent means.
Rahul has so far walked about 1,000 kilometres. He has comfortable sleeping arrangements, a new pair of branded sports shoes every couple of weeks and occasionally a two-day rejuvenating holiday at a resort and spa, as he did in Mysuru. So, comparing Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi to Gandhiji’s Dandi March is ridiculous.
Most modern political yatras are about creating ‘optics’ for political gains and not so much for public good.
In 1990, when the then BJP President L.K. Advani was set to go on a padayatra to garner support for the Ayodhya movement, the late Pramod Mahajan pointed out that if they went on foot, it would take too long. To this, Advani asked, “A jeep yatra, then?”
But the jeep yatra didn’t have the visual connect or appeal. So, the ever-so-smart Mahajan suggested they take a minibus and redesign it as a rath! A perfect visual appeal if you want to attract a fanatic.
Similarly, during this Bharat Jodo Yatra, photos of Rahul Gandhi giving a speech in the rain, playing with children, carrying them, speaking to older people, etc., are heart-warming visuals meant to change the mind of fence-sitters on voting day.
This yatra is important for Rahul Gandhi and Congress. It may be Bharat Jodo Yatra, but it is Congress Bachao Yatra.
Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had gone on yatras after the Congress party’s poll debacles in 1977 and 1989, respectively. They didn’t win the subsequent elections, but there are exceptions.
It worked for BJP. In 1990, when L.K. Advani went on his Rath Yatra, BJP had 85 seats. In 1991, it was 120.
In recent times, yatras have worked well for certain politicians. In 1983, Chandrasekhar, as President of the Janata Party, did a 4,000-km-long padayatra from Kanyakumari to Gandhiji’s samadhi at Rajghat in New Delhi. He went on to become the Prime Minister in 1990.
In 2003, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy embarked on a 1500-km, two-month padayatra. He became CM the next year!
Even his son Jagan Mohan Reddy deployed the same strategy. He walked 3,500 kms through 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh in 340 days. Two years later, in 2019, Jagan was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Ironically, Jagan defeated a man who also had come to power after a yatra. N. Chandrababu Naidu, the leader of Telugu Desam Party, had undertaken a 1,700-km-long padayatra in 2013 and in 2014 he was elected the State’s Chief Minister.
How can we forget the ‘Bangalore to Ballari’ padayatra led by Siddharamaiah in 2010? The yatra was against the BJP-ruled Government’s failure to curb illegal mining in Ballari.
The yatra established Siddharamaiah as a Congress leader and made him acceptable among Congress workers. Three years later, in 2013, Siddharamaiah was the CM.
Similarly, will this Bharat Jodo Yatra rejuvenate the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi? So far, yatras haven’t been helpful to Rahul.
In 2015, Rahul Gandhi had the ‘Kisan padayatra’ in Maharashtra and Telangana. There was no advantage to Congress in either States.
In 2016, he undertook a ‘Deoria to Dilli’ Yatra. Rahul travelled 3,400 kms and visited 141 Assembly Constituencies hoping to end the Congress party’s 27-year exile from power in UP. But alas, in 2017 election, Congress won only seven UP Assembly seats.
In 2020, he began a three-day ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’ in Punjab to fight the controversial farm laws. But the agitation was hijacked from him. Now AAP rules Punjab.
Karnataka BJP on the Defence?
Yatras may not have been fruitful for Rahul Gandhi, but we are glad he came to Karnataka because the Karnataka BJP needed a jolt.
Just a few days after Rahul Gandhi had passed through Mysuru, an advertisement appeared in all the State Newspapers. The Ad read: “Mr. Rahul Gandhi, after Veerendra Patil, Devaraj Urs & S. Bangarappa, which other Kannadiga leader is your party going to humiliate next?”
What an ill-timed, random and uncalled-for advertisement?
The Congress did not remove Veerendra Patil, Devaraj Urs and Bangarappa to install a Chief Minister from Delhi; they replaced them with another Kannadiga. So where is the question of humiliating a Kannadiga?
Where was the need for this advertisement at all? Is BJP scared that Rahul Gandhi’s yatra won over some voters who are sick of Karnataka BJP’s deep-seated corruption?
As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Karnataka BJP launched their own yatra — ‘Jana Sankalpa Yatra’. Why?
Worse, it chose the same old tainted leaders to lead this yatra instead of more articulate, hard-working and untainted young leaders like Pratap Simha and Tejasvi Surya.
If BJP is not bothered about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, as the CM said, then ignore Rahul Gandhi and talk about the development works you are doing for the State.
Yatras can turn a leader’s and a party’s fortune around but for that to happen, there needs to be the right leader and the purpose must be sincere.
Rahul Gandhi’s yatra may be too long and whatever goodwill he garnered may fade away due to voters’ short-term memory and his party’s unshakable ‘appeasement politics.’
But for now, we are glad the Karnataka BJP is rattled enough by his Bharat Jodo Yatra. Unfortunately, it didn’t encourage them from doing visible development works and giving us a corruption-free governance. Instead, it drove them to do a copycat yatra with old cats.
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