Congress leaders have pulled up their socks as they hope the Bharat Jodo Yatra lifts their fortune and helps them race ahead. To cover over 35,000 km, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, it’s also Rahul Gandhi’s ambitious relaunch pad. Leaders though say the idea is to project the Congress as the only party that can be the thread to bring the nation together.
But there are two important events that could cast a shadow on the yatra. One, the presidential polls of the Congress party, and the second the state elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
A top Congress source said leaders don’t think there would be a problem with the presidential polls as Rahul Gandhi is being convinced and may agree to contest. But, not willing to take any chances, the Congress has made facilities to ensure that those who will cast their votes in the polls, if need be, can go to Bengaluru and do so. It is calculated that the polls will be around when the yatra reaches Karnataka.
But there is a problem. Some members of the so-called “G-23" group of rebels are of the opinion that this would be the best time to make their point. Just a reminder, Ghulam Nabi Azad announced his resignation on the day when the Congress was hoping to hold a big tell-all press conference on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Also, Azad did his Jammu rally on a day when Rahul Gandhi did the Halla Bol rally at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.
So, as a senior G-23 member told News18.com, “We have something up our sleeve. We know when to make news and strike them. They may accuse us of helping the BJP but the point is we wanted to help the Congress as well." There is already speculation that Shashi Tharoor may file nomination for the top post though he has not committed yet. But as per sources, for now, one of the G-23 members plans to file nomination despite being aware that they may not have the numbers. But it’s about making a point.
A look at the map of the route shows that some important points are being missed. For example, the yatra will pass through a largely safe area where the Congress hopes to muster crowds. It focuses on states like Rajasthan where it will go through three places in which the Congress is in power. In Punjab and Haryana, it’s only Ambala that is being touched despite the fact that Haryana is up for grabs for the Congress. The yatra in its first leg skips Odisha and the Northeast and gives the feeling of being a safe one. If one goes through history, yatras of leaders have emboldened the party when they go through tough or challenging areas. The Congress here has missed the chance.
GUJARAT AND HIMACHAL POLLS
Rahul Gandhi plans to rough it out. Beginning with Sriperumbudur, where his father Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and where a memorial stands, the appeal is to the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. He will spend the night with his core team in mobile containers and all food will be cooked locally and be very simple fare. Seniors like Digvijaya Singh are likely to be with him for the entire stretch of the yatra along with a list of 117 volunteers who are party leaders who will accompany him. They have been chosen to represent all the states. The only break Rahul Gandhi will take is to campaign for the poll-bound states, which incidentally are not on the yatra route.
But here is the worry. If the Congress loses the elections in the middle of the yatra, it will cast a shadow over Rahul Gandhi and his ability to come back. Yatras have in history often worked for those who have undertaken it. Like NTR’s Chaitanya Ratham Yatra, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Sankalp Yatra, Mamata Banerjee’s yatra through Singur and Nandigram, etc. There is a worry also that will people and volunteers join the yatra along the way or will it be reduced to only party leaders being the yatris? This would defeat the purpose of having a Bharat Jodo Yatra. In fact, the Congress wants to make it a people’s movement. Also, if this yatra does not boost Rahul Gandhi and the Congress’s fortunes, it would be an opportunity lost. Yet again.