By Nitya Chakraborty
The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi completed one month of its march in Karnataka on October 6. With the participation of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the Yatra got massive character boost, attracting thousands of men, women and even children, as also the grassroots party workers. What was significant was the show of unity by the two Congress factions of the state during the march, and this was made possible by Rahul Gandhi who took former chief minister K Siddharamaiah on one side and D K Shivkumar on the other and compelled them to beat the drum together amidst wide applause from the marchers.
The Yatra which began on September 7 from Kanyakumari covered Tamil Nadu and Kerala and entered Karnataka on September 30. The marchers will continue Yatra in Karnataka till October 21. This three-week travel by the Congress workers and the common masses under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi has special significance as the message of end to hatred and bigotry is more relevant for this state compared to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Rahul Gandhi, in the course of his Yatra and the road side meetings, is continuously exposing the BJP and the Narendra Modigovernment, explaining how the BJP and Sangh Parivar are acting as the fomenters of communalism and fissiparous tendencies in the country, while simultaneously destroying the longstanding institutions and the ethos of the constitution of India.
After Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka is the second laboratory of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar’s hate machine. In the last nearly five years of the BJP rule, this state, which was known for its secularism and peaceful harmony between various communities, has been converted into a free playground of the majoritarian communalism. The Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru, is witnessing continuous harassment of its minority communities. The BJP chief minister B Bommai who inherits a socialist past, is just carrying out the diktat of the Sangh Parivar and their violent fringe elements. Corruption has reached a peak in the state administration and openly, the state government is being called the“40 per cent cut government”.
The anti-incumbency is very strong against the Bommai government, but at the same time, the ruling party BJP is exercising total mobilisation in terms of resources, while also polarising voters along religious lines. The Congress must not only unite its leadership but also expand its support base to take on the BJP in the state assembly elections early next year. The Congress also has to align with the JD(S) to combat jointly the BJP challenge in the coming Karnataka polls. That way, the three-week Bharat Jodo Yatra through Karnataka is sure to impart a new dynamism to the Congress organisation in the state.
In fact, the Congress and the JD(S) are traditionally well positioned to defeat the BJP comfortably in the assembly elections. In the last 2017 assembly elections, the BJP got 104 seats out of the total of 224 by getting 36.35 per cent votes whereas the Congress got 80 seats by getting much higher votes at 38.4 per cent. The JD(S) got 37 seats by recording 18.3 per cent votes. The Congress and the JD(S) formed a coalition government initially, but the BJP organised defections through money power leading to the fall of the government and the installation of a government belonging to the BJP and the defectors.
In the last rural bodies elections, both the Congress and the JD(S) performed better compared to the BJP and since then, the BJP government’s acceptability has gone down. A proper understanding between the rejuvenated state Congress and the JD(S) can beat the BJP convincingly. The BJP central leadership has taken note of the tremendous response aroused by the Yatra and they are worried that it will have its impact on the coming assembly elections. Accordingly, a meeting of the state leaders were held on Friday to take stock of the situation. Sources said that the BJP has set a target of winning 150 seats out of the total of 224 in the next elections and the party leadership will take all steps to neutralize the impact if any, of the Bharat Jodi Yatra on the electorate of Karnataka.
For the Congress Party, it is a positive development that the Yatra has got good response in Karnataka, which is going to assembly polls early 2023.However, the immediate need of the Congress is to mobilise all its resources for fighting the BJP in its strongholds Gujarat and Himachal, where assembly polls are scheduled for November-December this year. So far, the Congress preparedness is abysmal. In Himachal, the party is in a bad shape. Out of the four working presidents of the state Congress, two have left and joined BJP. Early this week, a very senior leader Suresh Chandel left the Congress and joined the BJP. No major Congress leader campaigned in Himachal in recent weeks, while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself began the election campaign this week and all senior leaders including the BJP president J P Nadda are monitoring the BJP campaign on a daily basis.
In Himachal, in the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP got 44 seats and the Congress 21 out of the total of 68 seats. The CPI(M) which has strength in some pockets got one seat and two seats went to independents. The BJP secured 48.79 per cent votes while the Congress got 41.68 percent. In the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, BJP got all four seats, but in one by-election to the Lok Sabha, the Congress won defeating BJP. So now, BJP has three Lok Sabha seats from Himachal while the Congress has one. The BJP state party is faction-ridden for long but the central leadership has intervened and now the saffrons are working jointly. The Congress has a massive task to meet the BJP challenge in Himachal in the coming assembly polls.
As regards Gujarat, the situation for the Congress is precarious. There is no direction to the state leaders from the high command. Nobody bothers to visit Gujarat for poll campaign. The observer Ashok Gehlot is too busy keeping his chief minister’s seat safe in Rajasthan after the latest fiasco over a botched party presidential poll nomination. As against this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are visiting their home state on a regular basis. PM will be in Gujarat for election campaigning for three days beginning October 9. This will be followed by five yatras to be organized by the state BJP covering all the 182 seats. AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal is visiting every week. AAP wants to replace the Congress as the main opposition against the BJP.
The Congress did quite well in the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat by getting 77 seats as against BJP’s 99. But in the last five years, a large number of Congress MLAs deserted the party and joined BJP. There is total demoralization in the Congress unit in Gujarat as the central leaders seem to have lost all hopes of getting back Gujarat.
Bharat Jodi Yatra is fine but in the process, if the Congress gets defeated once again in these two states that will give a big momentum to the BJP before the 2023 assembly elections and the coming Lok Sabha polls in 2024. The Congress central leadership can only neglect its duty in Himachal and Gujarat at its own peril. Simultaneously, it will give a big blow to the other opposition parties who are gearing up to meet the challenge from Narendra Modi in the 2024 polls. (IPA Service)