By Sushil Kutty
Once Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ makes its way out of Kerala, there should be peace between the Congress and the CPM. In Kerala, other than their committed cadres, the two do not differentiate between voters. The Kerala voter shifts loyalty from one to the other religiously every five years. It appears, however, that Rahul’s yatra would like this covenant broken come 2024, and the left parties have sensed this threat.
The Congress can deny as much as it wants to, but for the grand old party, ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has to do with general elections 2024. The Congress had won 19 of the 20 Kerala Lok Sabha seats in 2019. For the Congress no other state fetched as many seats and it wants 2024 to be no different. The yatra has already spent more than a week in Kerala with a total of 18 days reserved for the state.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra route has been charted such that it’ll pass through states which fetched the Congress LS seats in 2019. The quest is to retain those seats, at least. Why would the Congress set out to traverse 3,600 km unless it wasn’t to gain political power at the Centre? The Bharat Jodo Yatra makes no sense if it was to win one or two states. The route is proof the Congress wants to consolidate its strengths.
In Kerala, for instance, and in states such as Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The Bharat Jodo Yatra will pass through 12 states where the Congress is perceived to be stronger or as strong as the BJP. Not surprisingly, Bharat Jodo Yatra will only be two days in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, and skip altogether Gujarat which is also BJP-ruled and where assembly elections are due even as the Bharat Jodo Yatra passes by, and where the AAP is making a determined bid to grab power.
After Kerala, the Bharat Jodo Yatra and Rahul Gandhi will traverse through Karnataka. In fact, a total of 21 days in Karnataka and Rajasthan. Both states go to polls in 2023. The Congress has high hopes of wresting Karnataka from the BJP, and believes it will retain Rajasthan despite some unsavoury details that marred its rule at its fag-end.
The CPI(M) grouse is the Congress is not displaying any real intent to fight the BJP. The Bharat Jodo Yatra spending only two days in BJP-stronghold Uttar Pradesh is a joke. Similarly, steering clear from Bihar is also mystifying. Now, post the criticism from the Left, Congress stalwarts Jairam Ramesh and Digvijay Singh have announced they’ll visit several other states as part of the yatra.
The CPI(M) considers this a “strange way to fight BJP-RSS”, adding that it looked more like “Seat Jodo” yatra. The more serious question: Doesn’t the route chart and the time spent by Rahul in different states indicate that the Congress is not serious about fighting the BJP?
Looks like the Congress doesn’t want the humiliation of another defeat; another series of defeats, in the assembly elections, and in the parliamentary elections. More electoral defeats will severely dent Rahul Gandhi’s standing within the party, a party which can ill-afford such an outcome.
From all indications, it looks like the Congress would rather abdicate to parties such as AAP, and regional parties such as the TMC, TRS, RJD and the JD(U), parties which have in them the ability and confidence to defeat the BJP. Gujarat, for instance, appears to have been wholly-solely left to an AAP-BJP contest. In fact, going by rhetoric alone, Gujarat is already “Congress-mukt”.
The Congress is disappearing from wide swathes of India. All that the Bharat Jodo Yatra can show as it passes through Kerala is a slowly burning khaki-knicker even as other opposition parties question the Congress for “running away from taking on the Sangh Parivar challenge.”
Talk is that the Bharat Jodo Yatra may yet decide to spend more time in Uttar Pradesh. The standing plan, however, is that the yatra will spend 13 days in Telangana, 16 days in Maharashtra, 16 in Madhya Pradesh, two in Delhi, 12 in Haryana and 11 in Punjab. The last politician who did a similar yatra was Jagan Mohan Reddy and he won a state! (IPA Service)