NEW DELHI: The ambitious Bharat Jodo Yatra of the Congress, led by party leader Rahul Gandhi, completed 100 days on Friday. The yatra, launched on September 7 at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, was launched to highlight three challenges being faced by India. However, the yatra is not about five issues.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has reached a milestone by completing about two-thirds of its journey. Of the total 3570 km distance till Srinagar which it has to cover, the yatra has completed more than 2800 km. It remains to cover 737 km in the remaining 50-odd days.
In these 100 days, the yatra has passed through 42 districts in eight states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Currently at Dausa in Rajasthan, the yatra is scheduled to pass through Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab and finally Jammu and Kashmir.
The yatra was conceived by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the three-day ‘Chintan Shivir’ of the party at Udaipur in Rajasthan between May 13 and May 15.
According to Congress MP and general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh, the yatra is being used as an instrument to raise three major challenges being faced by the country because of the “policies and intention of the Narendra Modi government” at the Centre.
Ramesh said, “The three challenges are: 1. Economic disparity is widening due to unemployment, price rise and a faulty Goods and Services Tax (GST). 2. Social polarisation on the basis of caste, religion, language, food, dress, reading habits, eating habits and way of living is being encouraged. 3. Political dictatorship has become a reality with political division widening between the Centre and states, abuse of Constitution, misuse of investigative agencies, growing centralisation of power in the Union government and making of state governments, nagar palikas and panchayats irrelevant.”
The yatra was conceived to ideologically counter the BJP on these three crucial issues. “The yatra is a means to go amongst the people, to be seen on the streets, to show a new path to the party workers and to give an opportunity to the leaders to walk on the streets,” he said.
However, going by what the Congress leaders have been reiterating time and again, there are five issues which the Bharat Jodo Yatra is not about.
Bharat Jodo Yatra is neither a 'Chunao Jeeta Yatra' nor 'Chunao Jitao Yatra'. It does not have anything to do with the assembly or the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. One of its purposes is to strengthen the organisation and galvanise the workers. Its impact on elections will depend on unity and discipline of the leaders and workers of the party.
Ramesh said, “We will not get positive results if we do not follow them. It is not a magic wand for winning elections and solving all problems.”
Several questions were raised after Rahul Gandhi did not campaign in the recently-held Himachal Pradesh assembly election or when he visited Gujarat just for a day and addressed only two rallies for the state poll there. However, the Congress reiterated that Rahul could not spare more time for elections because he was preoccupied with the yatra which was not about polls.
2. Opposition unity
Ramesh has said on several occasions that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the Congress party's yatra. The organisation has welcomed all political parties and civil society organisations to take part in the yatra. However, the purpose of the yatra is not opposition unity.
“The purpose of the yatra is to strengthen the Congress. The opposition can become strong only when the Congress becomes strong. There is no meaning of opposition unity if the Congress is weak,” said Ramesh.
According to him, many organisations and civil society groups who are now associated with the yatra accept that they committed a blunder in 2012 by opposing the Congress. “It is a ‘prayashchit yatra (repentance march)’ for people such as Yogendra Yadav and PV Rajgopal. Even those who criticise the Congress, for instance the regional parties, are associated with the yatra. They have realised that there is no alternative to the Congress if they have to take on the BJP,” he said.
3. Branding of Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Ramesh have alleged that the BJP spent crores of rupees on spoiling and distorting Rahul Gandhi's image. “That money has flown down the Ganges. I would not say that a new kind of Rahul Gandhi is seen but I would say that the real and true Rahul Gandhi is seen now,” Ramesh said.
He talked about an old Hindi movie 'Asli-Nakli' starring Dev Anand and Sadhna and said, “If a movie has to be made on the yatra, its title would be ‘Nakli-Asli’. Out of the nakli (fake), which was projected earlier, the asli (real) Rahul Gandhi is seen now before the country.”
4. Rahul Gandhi’s Mann ki Baat
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’, the Congress said the Bharat Jodo Yatra was not Rahul Gandhi’s Mann ki Baat.
Ramesh said, “The yatra is for Rahul Gandhi to listen but not to tell the people that he has the answer. It is to engage in a conversation with the people, to understand their daily worries and daily concerns through direct interactions.”
5. Event management
Countering their opponents who allege that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is an event management programme, the Congress leader said it is a “process”.
“After this, we will launch the 'Haath-se-haath Jodo Abhiyan' from January 26. We have become weak. Our performance in Gujarat is very disappointing. We have forgotten these processes after remaining in power for several years. It is a rediscovery for us. It is a booster dose for the Congress,” said Ramesh to mediapersons in Rajasthan on December 15.