Rahul Gandhi Needs to Do : Congress Jodo Instead of Bharat Jodo Yatra
Walking has become the biggest obsession and metaphor of our times as speed acquires a new connotation each hour and everyday. There are wearables that measure each step from waking till sleeping and keep reassuring us of our well-being and reduce the guilt of modern living. People walk to recover health, pilgrims walk to recover their faith and in history, armies marched to recover lost ground or gain new territory. The big question about Rahul’s Yatra is whether it will help the Congress to regroup and emerge as strong Opposition and unite the Country as claimed by the Congress Politicians.
There seems to be little glamorous about Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is easy to be momentarily carried away by the chaotic energy that marks the beginning, but the occasion merits sombre reflection. It is evident that the Congress is at its weakest; the Party has become cannibalistic, racing towards self-annihilation. The Congress is facing its worst-ever existential crisis- plagued by desertions, defections, resignations, factional rebellions (G-23), etc. In the last seven years, a sizeable chunk of Congress politicians, elected to represent people have shown that they are bereft of any ideology by switching sides and bringing down their own democratically elected governments. This heterogeneity within the Congress is baffling.
Rahul Gandhi’s advisors seem to have convinced him that a much publicised, nationwide foot march–Padayatra– is the best way to elevate Rahul and his march to the same level as the Dandi March , undertaken by M.K. Gandhi, almost a century back. Congress claims that Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is a call to unite India with emphasis on healing the deep fractures in society along religious and caste lines. The March is, somehow, coloured by Party Politics and is perceived more as an anti – BJP, anti-Modi March, rather than as a noble intention to rid the nation of its communal cancer that devours its vitals. It is for this reason that the Yatra has not set the hearts of the young aflame. Because of this we do not see a similar electrifying cry reverberating in the sky as we saw when Jayaprakash gave his call for a total revolution which brought on Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and united the entire Opposition, and all castes and communities, against the Congress and eventually brought her down, or more recently, the India Against Corruption Movement, which ignited the hearts of the youth across the country and led to the siege of Delhi and the downfall of UPA-2. The Bharat Jodo Yatra pales in comparison. It is evident from the fact that the Yatra has almost been covered, yet the crowds have not swollen, and the land is not echoing with the voices of the Masses.
The question remains – Where does Rahul stand? We cannot detect the precise man through his actions. When the Supreme Court spoke for a Uniform Civil Code for all citizens, which promises to give equal rights to Muslim Women, Rahul was perceived to be siding with Muslim conservatives opposed to it. In the Sabarimala Temple Case, when the Supreme Court ruled that women of menstrual age can enter the sanctum and offer Puja, he seemed lost-between the court ruling and his party’s need to not antagonise Hindu conservatives. In short, he was seen to be trying to appease conservatives of both communities.
It seems that the Congress Ship is itself rudderless and is foundering with internal strife. It now has an elected President – Malikarjuna Kharage- but many within the Party believe he’s a dummy. While his mother Sonia Gandhi and Sister Priyanka Gandhi hover over the Party and its decisions, Rahul seems torn between the old guard and the young brigade, and both camps are insecure and many are jumping ship. Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.’ Rahul does not inspire and instill hope in the masses. When he does, fortune may favour him.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra’s brief is a bit vague. On the one hand, it talks about brotherhood and on the other hand it seeks to target the Modi government on unemployment. There is no clear demand or aim. The title Bharat Jodo Yatra may be all right from the point of view of social harmony, but it doesn’t capture the economic component of the Yatra-that is issues such as unemployment and price rise. Further, the title itself gives rise to questions like “Why Bharat Jodo? Is India Broken?” Certainly it may not be a great idea for a mainstream Political Party to march claiming that India itself in broken. As a matter of fact, the vague brief of the Yatra and primacy given to Rahul Gandhi over other prominent Congress leaders blunts its political impact to some extent.
It was ironic that for taking potshots of the Modi government, Rahul Gandhi made a contrarian statement to his earlier public stand. He stressed that his Yatra was a replica of India and had no hatred and violence. However, in doing so he mocked the attendees of the Yatra. To make his point clear, the Congress leader claimed that animals too attended his Yatra and they were not harmed. However, in making the claim Rahul Gandhi forgot that irrespective of his claim, the media and social media have been keeping a watch on the Party’s anti-social acts. Through the Yatra, Congress had openly backed cow killer Rijil Makkutty. Undeniably, it has exposed Congress and weakened its claim of not harming animals.
The Yatra has miserably failed in its stated objectives. The Congress’s stocks have been falling in the last eight years. It has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha and majority of the Assembly Elections during this period proving that its mass support has drastically eroded. Besides, several of its leaders have quit the Party, dealing a major blow to its strength and image. These developments have demoralised the Congress workers. Therefore, it seems true that Rahul Gandhi needs to do Congress Jodo Yatra, instead of doing Bharat Jodo Yatra. The fact that must be clearly understood by all the political parties that the only time India was divided was in 1947 and therefore if a political party or individual wants unification of India, they should make efforts to make Pakistan a part of Indian Territory.
Prof. Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)