The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is the most ambitious political campaign Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has undertaken. Over the next five months, he seeks to cover 3,570 km from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on foot, passing through 12 states and two Union Territories. The padyatra will put to the test Mr Gandhi’s physical fitness and that of the 118 Bharat Yatris accompanying him. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has expressed the hope that the padyatra would help to rejuvenate the Congress, which has been suffering defeat after defeat.
It is too early to predict how much traction the yatra will find among the people, particularly after it crosses the Vindhyas. If it fails to inspire the common people in the North, it may cause more harm than good. In other words, what the MP from Wayanad has begun is a political gamble that can make or mar the fortunes of the grand old party.
As politics is the art of the possible, the success or failure of the yatra depends on how Mr Gandhi makes use of it immediately in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where elections are due, and later in the 2024 parliamentary elections. He has taken to the road at a time when the Congress president is to be elected. Having stepped out of the election arena, he seems to imply that it does not matter who replaces his mother, as he will remain the party’s popular face.
It is not clear whether Mr Gandhi would stay away from the election campaign in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh while he winds his way to Srinagar. It would be a stretch to assume that the yatra would be so successful that it would sway voters in the two states where the Aam Aadmi Party is out to play the spoiler if it cannot win.
Nobody doubts Mr Gandhi’s integrity or his unwillingness to compromise with the ruling dispensation, but few have faith in his steadfastness. He is known to function in fits and starts. One day he can be so active as to jump into the sea and indulge in watery acrobatics and the next day he can disappear for days on end. The country saw how he courted arrest at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh even at the risk of personal harm, but he was not there to politically cash in on his adventure.
Mr Gandhi’s main problem is that he is not consistent in his political activity. The Congress is in such a moribund state that it is unable to play its role at the grassroots. To put it differently, even if the yatra carries conviction with the masses, the party does not have dedicated workers at the village level to ensure its supporters reach the polling booths and vote in its favour. The party needs to be rebuilt to take on the challenges of 2024. Seen in this context, the yatra is too little too late!
Pakistan today, could be any other tomorrow
The Indus remains a stream when it originates in the glaciers in Jammu & Kashmir and flows into Pakistan. But there, unprecedented rains swelled its waters so much that it inundated vast swathes of land. In fact, the monsoon floods have affected a third of the country and 33 million people. At least 1,343 people have been killed and tens of thousands rendered homeless.
The phenomenon was local, as it did not affect the rivers at their origins, like the Jhelum and the Indus that originate in India. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was not wide of the mark when he attributed the monsoon floods to climate change. What Pakistan experiences today may be experienced by any country tomorrow. This is all the more reason the world should see the catastrophe not in local terms but as something that needs to be tackled on a global basis.
Pakistan’s condition echoes the popular quip, “already weak and now pregnant”. The economy has been in a terrible state with inflationary pressures that the people are unable to cope with. The increase in fuel prices, caused by the Ukraine war, has made the situation doubly difficult. The fear that epidemics may break out is real. Reports from the relief camps suggest that the people are having a harrowing time. Men and women, who had been insulated except in their families, now have to live together in camps with little privacy. True, the government has been providing relief material, but it does not have the wherewithal to rebuild homes and establishments that the people have lost to the relentless rains and flash floods. The world should join hands to provide humanitarian aid to the flood-hit people of Pakistan.