By Arun Srivastava
After a fortnight, the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi would culminate with the national flag hoisting in Srinagar. But this finish would be purely an allegory. The real political Yatra (journey) of Rahul will begin after this stage.
The political analyst, scribes, intellectuals, fellows of RSS and Narendra Modi’s think tank are sweating out to decode the words and phrases used by Rahul about his yatra, which he has presented to the people as his tapasya. They are using their intellect to discover actually what Rahul achieved from his Yatra. Regrettably they are looking at the Yatra through the narrow prism of electoral gains. Their main worry is whether this yatra will help the Congress to win the elections. With this is in mind they cite the Congress’s recent electoral loss in Gujarat. They also seek to know whether the Yatra would actually unify the Congress.
While they are anxious to know the answers, they are sure that more and more Ghulam Nabi Azads would continue to desert the Congress as they do not see any electoral relevance of the exercise. One development is quite noticeable that after the Yatra was launched on September 7 no senior leader has left the party. Even the G 23 leaders who are intrinsically opposed to Rahul have abandoned their mission not to accept him as their leader. They have come to realise the political importance and dynamics of the Yatra.
These leaders have been maintaining utter restrain even while they are aware Rahul is apparently not too keen to pursue the electoral politics. Politicians are not saints and sadhus. They are in the business of politics to enjoy political power. Obviously the intellectuals and experts ought to look beyond their pre-perceived notions and conjectures. They even predict that Rahul has undertaken the Yatra to keep the party under the control of the Gandhis.
Rahul did not undertake Yatra out of sheer political impulse. He would be taking out Bharat Jodo Yatra was announced in May 2022 at the three day “Chintan shivir” in Udaipur. Addressing the shivir, Rahul had said that the Congress needed to accept that it had lost its connection with the people. He had come to realise that the RSS and BJP were setting a new narrative laced with rightist intent and ideology which would completely finish the secular values and democratic institutions. To protect and preserve the democratic ethos it was imperative that the Congress must look beyond the electoral gains and unleash a counter narrative to check the saffron incursion.
Yatra has the defined mission to counter the RSS and BJP narratives which are based on the politics of Hindutva, the most tempting and attractive objective. This was the reason that throughout Yatra Rahul fiercely attacked their divisive and hate politics. One development is equally eye catching, he called upon the common people to join the Yatra to combat BJP’s design to spread “nafrat” (hatred).
He had come to realise that this frightening narrative could not be fought in the electoral arena and plane. He must have a emotional connect with the common people for shattering the saffron narrative which basically aimed at pitting Muslims against Hindus and polarise the Hindus on the plea of fighting the designs of the Muslim terrorism. He knew that only Congress can undertake this task as other political parties have their divergent attitude and approach towards BJP and Modi government.
Wrapped in the drapery of hypernationalism and Hindutva, RSS and Modi have reached the politics of hatred and communalism to the lower level. The twin devices have penetrated the minds of the people, especially the urban middle class. The only way left out to detoxify the minds of the people is to counter the RSS –BJP narrative and provide the alternate. Rahul actually has been doing this. The Congress could not think of defeating BJP if its narrative is not finished. The BJP is panicked of the potential threat from the political and ideological line of Rahul.
His Yatra against hatred, and communal animosity and fearlessness is the first step towards demolishing the narrative. He has achieved success in his move is explicit in the response from the common people. It is significant that the international vice president of the VHP and general secretary of the trust building the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Champat Rai, praised Rahul Gandhi for undertaking the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Rai said it was “worthy of appreciation” that a youth was walking on foot across the country in this weather and trying to understand it. Rahul also received blessings from the head priest of the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya Acharya Satyendra Das who had wished him success through a letter.
The central message of his Yatra has caught the imagination of the people. It is clearly manifest in the massive response of the people. Only a naïve would argue that the participants were paid. What makes Yatra really significant is the spontaneous participation of thousands of villagers in the north Indian states. Even the BJP think tank was sure of Yatra being a flop show in Haryana and Punjab. But the response in these two states was beyond imagination. The question may arise what made the people to rally behind Rahul? Because they have been witness to the worst type of hate and communal politics practiced by the RSS and BJP. The response was over whelming in
Rahul’s wisdom paid dividend. He utilised the issues which have been ruining the lives of the poor, under privileged and middle class. He used unemployment, declining economy, abnormal price rise, fall in purchasing power and growing inequality. Instead of using the Yatra to deliver his political message he used it as the most effective non-political forum for making aware the people of the dangers of the Modi’s politics and preferences.
Though his party leaders often told that the Yatra would galvanise and rejuvenate the Congress, Rahul did not echo their observations. He always emphasized on purifying the system and fight politics of hatred. Nevertheless it worked as coramine for the Congress. The rank and file of the party which had withdrawn to the shell saw a new opportunity. More and more of the Congress rank and file impressed by Rahul Gandhi’s BJY joined him on the road to Congress revival. For common people, those who are basically opposed to Congress his message came as the ray of hope. The participation of large number of common people, labourers, farmers, daily wage earners is testimony to it.
While the secular and liberal forces nurse confusion on Rahul’s move, the RSS for deciphering his mission and also to neutralise his efforts has deployed its front organisations to conduct a series of meetings across the country to ensure that their narrative does not get obliterated by Rahul’s strategy. RSS is scared that notwithstanding having majority in the Lok Sabha, the BJP has lost its grip on its own narrative.
They targeted his wearing T shirt even in the chilly winter. But this also back fired. On the contrary their jibes served Rahul’s mission to identify himself with the poor. A perceptible shift in the political narrative has worried RSS and scared it as well as the BJP of the future moves of Rahul. They strongly nurse the feeling that the process of Rahul Gandhi’s emergence as a mature leader must be blunted at any cost. They realise that he can no longer be mocked and jeered at. Their confusion as to how to tackle Rahul on ward march got manifest in Amit Shah’s speech in Tripura. Shah taking a jibe at Rahul said that Baba should ‘open his ears and listen carefully’ to the announcement that on January 1, 2024, the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will be ready to welcome worshippers. Shah through his statement tried to convey that religion and Hindutva are going to be the key electoral issues in 2024.
Undeniably BJY has been successful in achieving its objective of catching the imagination of the common people. Yatra has demolished the “untruths” spread about Rahul to smear his image. This has been a significant gain as it has projected him as the matured and farsighted leader. So far the people held the view that there was no opposition leader who could oppose Modi. Now Congress has in the form of Rahul, who incidentally enjoys more popularity than Modi.
This change is visible in the observation of the NCP president Sharad Pawar who said “The people’s attitude towards Gandhi has changed. He will help in bringing a consensus among the opposition parties in the coming future”. One of the major gains of the Yatra has been, reinventing Rahul Gandhi. Equipped with the theoretical insight of New Left, Rahul is gradually moving ahead to wipe out the RSS-BJP narrative. In Panipat of Haryana he provided an insight “I have killed Rahul Gandhi. He is in your mind. He is not in my mind at all. He’s gone. Gone. The person you are looking at is not Rahul Gandhi. You can see him. You don’t understand it…Read Hindu scriptures. Read about Shiv-ji (Lord Shiva), you will understand. Don’t be shocked. Rahul Gandhi is in your head, not mine. He is in the BJP’s head, not mine”. This has got wider implication.
The new Rahul Gandhi is a metaphor that haunts the RSS and BJP. In spite of using their best intellects the RSS and BJP have not succeeded in deciphering the changes that have occurred in Rahul. At this juncture any effort to bring the old Rahul on the political canvas simply for the electoral needs would prove not only disastrous but counterproductive. His success in finishing the RSS narrative will eventually witness Congress getting back its old social coalition and standing on its feet. BJY is certainly not culmination of the mission. Instead it heralds a new beginning. (IPA Service)