Will ‘yatra’ revive Cong party and win votes?
WILL the Congress Party succeed in uniting the country by undertaking a march from one tip of the country to the other?
Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) was a mass movement, held by the Indian National Congress which culminated in Kashmir on Monday after covering a journey of 3,570 km in over 150 days.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was orchestrating the movement by encouraging the party cadre and the public to walk from Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India to the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The movement, according to Congress, was aimed at uniting the country against the "divisive politics" of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government of India.
The Yatra movement was launched by Gandhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin on September 7, 2022.
Its main objective was to protest against the politics of "fear, bigotry and prejudice", and the economics of livelihood destruction, increasing unemployment and growing inequality.
During the movement, the party elected a new party president and also won a majority in the 2022 Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly election, the first majority it won by itself since 2018.
According to Yogendra Yadav, one of the founders of Jai Kisan Andolan and Swaraj India, it’s not just a reactive campaign, but something positive and proactive. It’s after a very long time that the principle national opposition has proactively initiated something on the ground, that it has attempted to set the agenda, that someone has forced the Bharatiya Janata Party to be reactive;
A yatra on foot bridges the divide between the walker and the witness. The virtual public becomes a vicarious participant. Above all, a padayatra is a subterranean form of communication: It speaks by doing;
It involves feet on the ground, a physical show of strength;
It’s not just mobilised crowds; this yatra has evoked genuine public response;
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has spread its message about multiple forms of unity that are needed today and managed to foreground the most pressing issues of the economy; and
The Yatra is supported by several people’s movements and organisations, public intellectuals as well as prominent citizens who have had little truck with Congress in the past. People who do not ordinarily take political positions or are not known to support the Congress party have come out openly this time.
Rahul Gandhi has emphasized in speeches during the yatra: “For us, the Congress, this is a journey and an attempt at understanding what is going on in India and an attempt at undoing the damage that has been done by BJP and RSS."
The yatra was an arduous task of reviving the oldest political party in the country which has faced successive defeats in the elections in the recent past.
Gandhi expressed his high hopes for the yatra noting that it will definitely impact the politics in India. The yatra went from south to north but it had a countrywide effect, Gandhi said.
And, on the eve of its culmination, the senior Congress leader said: ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra will have an impact on Indian polity, what it will be I can't tell right now’. He added further: “Opposition parties may have differences but will stand united against RSS-BJP."
However, analysts say that they are not sure if the march will translate into votes.
According to the National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms, a total of 399 electoral candidates quit Congress to join other parties between 2014 and 2021. During that period, the party lost 39 out of 49 state elections.
Did the large crowd gather during the yatra just to see Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi, or is it a sign of recognizing the intended purpose of the march?
Unite the people, unite the party and win future elections – if the Congress fails to reach these goals, the yatra can be easily termed as a failure. We must wait and see.