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Bridging political gaps in India

The exercise aimed at rebuilding the Congress’s image as a people’s party, worked in favour of the personal and political credibility of Rahul Gandhi.

Bridging political gaps in India
Bharat Jodo Yatra (File photo)

NEW DELHI: This week, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi marked the end of a 135-day odyssey — the Bharat Jodo Yatra — with the unfurling of the tricolour in Srinagar on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. Four months ago, the Gandhi scion had embarked on the 4,000-km long journey from Kanniyakumari on foot, a journey that witnessed him interacting with ordinary citizens, influencers and politicians. The exercise aimed at rebuilding the Congress’s image as a people’s party, worked in favour of the personal and political credibility of Rahul Gandhi.

The end of the journey has silenced critics doubtful about Rahul Gandhi’s prowess as a national leader, and reinforced faith in his dedication and perseverance to the task at hand. The focus of the yatra was to showcase the stark contrast between the Congress’s ‘Unity in Diversity’ ideology and the BJP’s barely-concealed mission statement of Hindutva supremacy. What the yatra managed to do was to reassure citizens that there were lakhs of individuals who did not fully agree with the ruling party’s style of functioning, and that there was scope for a contrarian perspective to exist.

The Congress’s medley of slogans, catchphrases and social-media ready content were set to generate the kind of optics that might lend the Grand Old Party some much needed gravitas, come 2024, when the Lok Sabha elections are upon us. Having said that, a pan-Indian political movement such as this had not been witnessed for many decades now, and one cannot be faulted for expecting a quasi-political mobilisation to emerge as a result of this yatra. That was not meant to be, as some opposition leaders who hailed from the 23 like-minded parties had failed to turn up in Srinagar to show their support, owing to adverse weather conditions. This in turn, made it hard to comprehend, who stood by Rahul and who chose to sideline him.

In spite of those absentees (including the TMC and Congress ally CPM), representatives of the DMK, VCK, JMM, BSP, CPI, J&K National Conference, PDP, RSP, and IUML were among those who turned up for the joint rally in Srinagar. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge went so far as to say that the rally had little to do with elections or politics, but was aimed at ending hatred and bigotry. The ruling dispensation,while not exactly rattled by the yatra, was still aiming for a tit-for-tat response to the comments. The BJP called out the GOP for being hate-mongers who historically divided the nation, and now attempted to make amends with calls for unification.

Questions were also raised by the ruling party on the Congress cosying up to activists seeking Tamil separatism, as well as siding with those associated with the ‘tukde tukde’ gang. A GOP leader’s questioning of the surgical strikes was also raised as a bone of contention by the BJP. Political bickering aside, there are a few queries that still loom large. Chief among them is whether the Congress party can employ the momentum generated by the yatra to truly reinvigorate and transform itself into a formidable political force to be reckoned with. It might be too early to predict how the yatra has changed the tide of electoral outcomes. But one thing seems to be sure: It certainly offered the weary citizens of this nation, an alternative vision for polity in India — which in these times is a rarity.

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