Analysis: Collective will can make Yatra 2.0 a game-changer

Analysis: Collective will can make Yatra 2.0 a game-changer

In all probability, Rahul’s Yatra 2.0 will gain traction and help the Congress and the I.N.D.I.A alliance

AshutoshUpdated: Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 10:24 AM IST
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Congress MP Rahul Gandhi | Twitter

Even before Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra began, a headline management trick was played. Milind Deora’s resignation was planned in such a way that it would overshadow coverage of Rahul’s Yatra. Milind’s only claim to fame is that he is the son of Murli Deora, a quintessential Congressman. Milind, despite being a member of Parliament for two terms at a very young age, has failed to nurse a constituency which he could claim to be his own. He is not the only dynast to have defected from the Congress. There is a long list and coincidentally most of them were part of Rahul Gandhi’s club. Rahul Gandhi, by now must have learnt that politics is not a fun club, it is a hard-fought battle; a rugged game which requires battle-hardened warriors, not chocolate boys.

It’s good that “fun boys” are leaving one after the other. In the long run this will strengthen the Congress, and give an opportunity to grassroots workers with fire in the belly, willing to fight for the party. These “fun boys” were/are in politics not for commitment to a social cause but for status, and it is therefore no wonder that when their social status was threatened due to the decline of the party, they switched sides.

Rahul Gandhi too is a dynast; he has a great legacy. He is the great-great-grandson of one of the greatest sons of India, a man who laid the foundation of democracy in the country and nurtured it to the hilt. If India today is a democracy, then Jawaharlal Nehru should get the credit, otherwise even in his time there were leaders and forces who wanted to take the country the Pakistan way. Politics would have been a fun game for Rahul Gandhi too in the beginning, but two humiliating electoral setbacks in 2014 and 2019 have made him realise that politics is a different cup of tea. The Bharat Jodo Yatra 1.0 from Kanyakumari to Kashmir was the result of that realisation. This singular event has majorly helped Rahul Gandhi to be taken as a serious politician. Before that walk, BJP and its million-dollar industry had turned him into a “Pappu”. He was painted as a good-for-nothing politician and a liability. The BJP and its affiliated organisations and their supporters did try to discredit the Yatra, but soon they realised that it would boomerang, and then onwards avoided any nasty propaganda. To imagine that the BJP will not do it this time is assuming too much. But the BJP is a great learner, it will be cautious.

In all probability, Rahul’s Yatra 2.0 will gain traction and help the Congress and the I.N.D.I.A alliance. The criticism that it has started late and should have been planned earlier has merit. It is too close to the election, when the nuts and bolts of the election needed more attention from the party brass. In my opinion, no doubt, it’s late, but this in no way harms the party's grassroots preparation which is required for the election. Rather it will add to the party’s cause.

What is an election? It is a kind of grassroots mobilisation of the party cadre and through them reaching out to the people to convey the party’s message and to convince the common man to vote for the party. I can tell you from my experience in politics, as someone who has himself contested elections and led a political organisation in assembly and local elections in different capacities, that such a Yatra is, in more than one way, better than holding rallies.

Rallies during the elections are a one-way communication. The leader does not get an opportunity to interact with the people. There is no conversation. Like rallies, even for yatras or roadshows, the party worker has to mobilise masses, people have to be brought to the event site; but rallies are a one-event exercise whereas a yatra is a continuous process, it’s like a relay race. It passes through different routes, streets and roads in the city and district. If a rally is missed, then it is missed, there is no way to reorganise again in the same area but since a yatra is continuously moving, a common man can always catch it at the next venue in the vicinity or on the next road. A yatra also provides an opportunity to address the people in small groups which help leaders communicate better and understand local and national issues. And if the leader is observant enough then they can always tweak political messaging depending upon the instant feedback.

But this Yatra will have more impact if the alliance partners decide to present a united front. If the 28 political parties which have come together were to decide to participate in the Yatra in their area of influence and walk with Rahul, in solidarity with the cause rather than with the individual, then it has the potential to magnify the political impact. Leaders of the alliance have to understand that they all have to come together to defeat the BJP and not let Narendra Modi win a third term because if that happens then these parties, as they very well understand, face a bleak future. Government agencies are already hounding them 24/7, and raids and arrests are common features. These leaders should have wised up after what happened to Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. In my opinion it is a new phenomenon in Indian politics. It is not an attempt to break the party. It is an exercise to hijack the party. The decisions of the Election Commission and of the Speaker of Maharashtra assembly are parts of that bigger programme.

Therefore, if leaders like Mamta Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Tejasvi Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and others join the Yatra, a sense of cohesion and unity will be transmitted to the voters; and the voter who is looking for an alternative, but has been voting for BJP or does not vote at all due to lack of an alternative, will get a sense that their vote will make an impact and can lead for a change, and can change the complexion of the election in 2024. But if alliance partners are guided by a myopic vision and take it as a Congress event, then it will have very limited appeal.

A Yatra before the elections is a new experiment in Indian politics. There will be scepticism. Leaders and political commentators will have doubts. Some journalists will write negatively but a mass-contact programme like this always helps broaden the base and amplify the party’s reach. Politics in India before Mahatma Gandhi was about petitioning the British and making fiery speeches but the freedom movement got momentum when Gandhi hit the roads, went to the people, took heed of their plight and heard their complaints. The BJP is another example. Until L K Advani launched the Rath Yatra, he was an ordinary officebearer of the party but after the Rath Yatra he became a mass leader, a symbol of Hindutva. It is the Rath Yatra that made the BJP what it is today. A Yatra did not immediately catapult BJP into a mass party but it definitely changed the perception about the party, creating an image that brought new voters to the party.

Today, the Congress is going through the same phase that BJP experienced in the mid-1980s after the colossal defeat in 1984. For the Congress to regain its old glory is a distant dream. It’s a long journey but the Yatra can turn into a milestone provided the Congress and alliance partners realise its benefits and are not misled by their petty egos.

The writer is Editor, SatyaHindi.com, and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B

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