Bharat Jodo Yatra ‘booster dose’ for Cong but impact on poll-bound states depends on follow-up

NEW DELHI, 5 Feb: The Congress has described the Bharat Jodo Yatra as a “booster dose” but whether it will provide the party a new lease of life in election-bound states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka is a million-dollar question.
Though Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh has time and again reiterated that it was not an electoral yatra but an ideological one aimed at capturing the battlefield of ideas, political pundits say that its real test would be the impact at the hustings and whether it can revive the grand old party’s electoral fortunes in the run-up to the 2024 elections.
Assembly elections are likely to be held in nine states this year, and the yatra passed through four of them – Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana.
The over 4,000 km Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra has certainly enthused the party cadres in these states, but whether it would have an electoral impact in the assembly polls would depend on whether the respective state units can keep up the momentum and keep answering the question – what next?
Also, organisational unity is a key challenge, especially in states such as Rajasthan, Karnataka and Telangana, where traditionally the party has been marred by factionalism.
While in states such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress seems to have made some gains with the yatra, in Rajasthan its factional fight between the camps of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot continues unabated with the foot march only proving to be a mere “thaw.”
As the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Rajasthan leg ended on 21 December, the Congress had heaved a sigh of relief as it passed the state without any face-off between the supporters of Gehlot and Pilot, despite sloganeering on the roads.
But soon after that, Pilot announced a series of public outreach events in the state, which many saw as a show of strength and a reminder to the high command that his grievances remain unaddressed. In his remarks at the rallies, Pilot had cornered the Gehlot government over issues such as the repeated paper leaks and political appointments of retired bureaucrats while sidelining party workers.
At the same time, the demand from Pilot camp to make him chief minister has also started again with leaders loyal to him openly calling for him being given the top job in the state ahead of the elections later this year.
If the Congress has to return to power in the state, the Gehlot-Pilot question needs to be solved; otherwise the gains of the yatra would amount to naught, say party workers.
A party worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The yatra has boosted the party’s prospects but issues are still unresolved between the two senior Congress leaders, which will certainly have an adverse impact on the prospects of the party in the next elections.”
Another party worker said it is necessary for all party leaders to be united and the Gehlot-Pilot fight is bound to weaken the party.
This is also the underlying sentiment among party workers in other poll-bound states such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Karnataka, as reining in personal ambitions of leaders remains the sticky point for the leadership.
Congress general secretary Ramesh recently told PTI that personal ambition and personal goals have been a bane of the Congress.
“What the Bharat Jodo Yatra has done is that it has brought a sense of collective purpose and solidarity, and that is what is needed in state after state, including in Rajasthan,” he said.
In Karnataka, the Congress has been hitting the right notes after the passage of the yatra despite the looming shadow of simmering tensions between chief ministerial hopefuls Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar.
The party has begun a statewide bus tour called ‘Praja Dhwani Yatra’, jointly led by party state unit president Shivakumar and leader of opposition in the assembly, Siddaramaiah.
The Congress in Karnataka has also promised Rs 2,000 a month to every woman head of households if the party is voted to power in the state. The announcement was made at a convention attended by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra last month.
In Madhya Pradesh, analysts say the Congress has to keep up the momentum by organising political programmes to get mileage out of the yatra for the 2023 polls.
Madhya Pradesh’ former director general of police SC Tripathi said: “Post Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress has to take a series of follow-up actions to get mileage out of it in 2023 polls. The party should plan activities for it.
“As the yatra was confined to just one part of the state, it won’t have much impact on other areas unless follow-up action takes place,” he said.
Senior journalist and author Rasheed Kidwai said the yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir has enthused the party workers in Madhya Pradesh and energised them but its impact among the voters will be visible only at the time of elections.
Although the Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by Rahul Gandhi, did not pass through party-ruled Chhattisgarh, leaders, workers and likeminded people from the state joined the march at various places across the country and there has been an indirect impact with the foot march providing a boost to the morale of party workers.
“The yatra has enthused party workers ahead of assembly elections scheduled in the state this year and are now working on the ‘Hath Se Hath Jodo Abhiyan’ to propagate Rahul Gandhi’s message of love, equality and brotherhood,” said Sushil Anand Shukla, head of the state Congress communication wing.
Political analyst and senior journalist R Krishna Das said the exact assessment of Bharat Jodo Yatra in Chhattisgarh cannot be ascertained as of now but it has undoubtedly given new energy to party cadres to take on the BJP and to retain power for the second term.
The yatra has certainly enthused Congress cadres, but for it to have an electoral impact, the upcoming ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyaan’, that seeks to take the message of the march to every household, and settling of factional rifts remain critical aspects, and only time will tell whether the party can reap the harvest sown by the cross-country walkathon. (PTI)