By Sushil Kutty
The Congress strategy to defeat the BJP and dislodge Prime Minister Narendra Modi from his pedestal is three-pronged. One, Muslims must be made to vote for the Congress, the Congress alone. Two, the Hindu voter should be convinced that the ‘Tapasvi Rahul’ is the alternative to the ‘Pujari Modi’. Three, the rest of the opposition parties should be made to make way for the Congress, and Rahul Gandhi.
And Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is the vehicle to achieve all three. But the opposition parties led by regional satraps have their own plans, with each their own yatra, some of them already on the move in state after state, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan. The BJY has spawned yatras like ‘walking’ is up everybody’s alley.
That said, it’s on the “PM-face” that there’s opposition. Congress leader Kamal Nath started with emphasis that Rahul Gandhi was the Opposition’s PM-face. With that he set the cat among the pigeons. The Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena is okay with Rahul Gandhi for PM. And NCP supremo Sharad Pawar also backs Rahul for PM. Nitish Kumar says he doesn’t mind.
But West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee does not agree, even if the NCP has conceded that Rahul Gandhi is the best bet to give Narendra Modi a proper send-off. Mamata Banerjee did not like Trinamool leader Shatrughun Sinha’s capitulation to Rahul Gandhi’s charisma. Only a naive Trinamool politician will back a non-TMC politician for the Opposition’s PM-face. So, Mamata remains the Trinamool party’s ‘PM-face’ though she personally is not vocal about it.
Both NCP and the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena have committed vote-banks. And Rahul Gandhi needs no introduction in Maharashtra. Despite the Shinde-Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, it will not be easy for the Bharatiya Janata Party when polls for Maharashtra assembly are held along with the 2024 general elections.
However, the Congress faces a problem of its own making: The Congress cannot expect to unite the Opposition against the BJP if its leader do not talk to them giving equal status. Of late Rahul has talked of alternative vision where the opposition parties have scope for cooperation but still the Congress has the mentality that it is the natural party of governance. It is to be seen whether this perception changes after the five month old BJY.
Of course, Rahul sent invitations to Opposition leaders Akhilesh Yadav and ‘Behan’ Mayawati to join the BJY. Both the leaders declined. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is a clear and present danger for the Samajwadi Party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, both of which have their vote-banks to protect.
In fact, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a walking-and-moving threat to a whole bunch of regional parties, including to minnows like the ‘Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party’ headed by Om Prakash Rajbhar who rejected Salman Khurshid’s invitation to join the BJY.
For Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a threat. Right now, the Congress is predator, and the Congress is hunting! Both the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are vulnerable, especially when the Congress is going around spreading talk that it’s the only party that can dislodge Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and end BJP’s run.
Sixty percent of voters want just that, come 2024 a party and a person to end Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 10-year run. The fact of the matter is Rahul’s focus goes beyond Congress revival. He wants the reins of power in his hands. Rahul Gandhi believes, and believes strongly, that only he can give ‘Nyay’ to the downtrodden and oppressed. Rahul Gandhi tore off Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s ordinance because he was impatient with Dr. Singh.
And he has been chafing ever since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. The BJY is Rahul’s way of conveying both people and politicians that it is now his turn to take charge of India’s destiny. Kamal Nath was only HMV telling to the world what the Wayanad MP told him to tell, that Rahul Gandhi is the Opposition’s PM-face.
And, therefore, the massive build-up for Rahul Gandhi. The preference for the Gandhi family icon is palpable in the ‘Godi Media’ coverage of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is seen in industrialist Gautam Adani channel-hopping. Rahul Gandhi sitting down with a pastor in Tamil Nadu; Rahul Gandhi walking with the cow-slaughterer in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi temple hopping in Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. All signs of the Congress going all out to grab the reins of power. The BJP is nervous. The BJP didn’t expect ED/CBI-like raids on its Hindutva vote-bank. (IPA Service)