The slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” was popularised during the freedom struggle. It is recorded that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru used to ask his audiences the meaning of the expression “Bharat Mata”, and he tried to decode this in his autobiography The Discovery of India. He writes, “...what counted ultimately were the people of India, people like them and me, who were spread all over this vast land. Bharat Mata — Mother India was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people” (page 53). He goes on to write then that there can be no “people” without shared memories, dreams and aspirations. And, “A nation, like an individual, has many personalities, many approaches to life. If there is a sufficiently strong bond between these different personalities, it is well; otherwise those personalities split up and lead to disintegration and trouble” (page 562).
It is this aspect of Bharat Mata which Rahul Gandhi raked up in a rally in Rajasthan, almost giving a lesson to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Mother India and what it really means. Rahul said that the poor, farmers, and labourers represent “Bharat Mata”. The Congress leader lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of favouring billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani over the interests of the common people. Gandhi suggested that instead of chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, PM Modi should say “Adani ji ki Jai”, emphasising the alleged close ties between the prime minister and Adani. Rahul Gandhi claimed that PM Modi's policies aim to create two separate Hindustans, one catering to Adani's interests and the other for the poor. One must remember that the Congress has been consistently targeting the Adani Group, accusing it of benefiting from the BJP government. The party repeatedly demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into allegations of stock price manipulation and financial irregularities against the Adani Group, as reported by US research firm Hindenburg. The Adani Group has denied any wrongdoing.
By enlivening “Bharat Mata”, Rahul has tried to neutralise the nationalistic agenda of the BJP, also exposing the hypocrisy of PM Modi and the BJP on Mother India and their ignorance about the real essence of the power of the people. Rahul has even tried to demolish the myth artificially created by the BJP that Modi is India and India is Modi, and likewise that Adani is India and India is Adani. Rahul is also simultaneously trying to resuscitate the Nehru legacy which is constantly under the chopping block of BJP and its IT cell. Once again the former President of the grand old party has tried to convey to the people who the real custodians of this democracy are, which conveniently seems to have been forgotten by the BJP.
Apart from the Bharat Mata issue Rahul Gandhi also hit out at PM Modi for not conducting a caste census. He went on to promise that if the Congress came into power, it would give priority to getting a caste census conducted. He said, and I quote, “We have ordered a caste census in Rajasthan. As soon as the (Congress) government comes to power in Delhi, our first task will be (to order) a caste census. Your true involvement will begin then. Mother India will be victorious then.” He even said that Modi will never conduct the caste census, it’s only the Congress party that can do this.
By blending the caste census with Bharat Mata, Gandhi has pinned down Modi directly before the eyes of 80% of the country's population comprising OBC, SC & STs. Gandhi has projected himself as a real identifier of Mother India, unmasking Modi's egoistic, self-absorbed and narcissistic image which to all intents and purposes has superficially sidelined the wishes and aspirations of Bharat Mata. It's a carefully calibrated, well-thought-out strategy by Gandhi and the Congress which even brings issues like people’s welfare and caste census to the forefront while at the same time perking up and revamping the political discourse in the country on real issues much unlike the BJP which seems to have been caught in a rhetoric.
Why did Rahul Gandhi talk about Bharat Mata and caste census in detail in Rajasthan? Although there is no official data available on caste representation in Rajasthan, it is estimated that the OBC population in the state is around 60% so the issue of giving more opportunities to the OBCs is a big election issue in Rajasthan. The ruling Congress had issued orders for a caste-based survey just before the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in Rajasthan and CM Ashok Gehlot had expressed his intentions to increase the quota of OBC from 21% to 27%.
Apart from population, another reason for giving maximum tickets to the OBCs is the Jat community which dominates the OBC population in the state. Jats in Rajasthan are listed under the OBC and it is the largest vote bank so the community gets the maximum tickets as well. This time half of the OBC candidates are Jats. The Congress and BJP have fielded 36 and 33 Jat candidates in the election. Keeping this political reality in mind, this could be Rahul’s trump card for the desert state.
(Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi. Twitter: @neeluopines)