By Sushil Kutty
Has Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ achieved what it set out to? What was it that Rahul Gandhi wanted to unify? His party went to pieces here, there and everywhere, wherever it had lost elections, and in states where the Congress was robbed of its hard-fought victories by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s central investigative agencies? Then, there were individual Congress leaders, like J&K heavyweight Ghulam Nabi Azad, who took off with a bunch of the like minded, which also left the grand old party broken if not decimated.
Now, as Bharat Jodo Yatra closes the gap with final destination Lal-Chowk in Srinagar with every passing day on the road, some of the Congress leaders who stalked out of the party with Ghulam Nabi Azad have returned to the Congress fold, proving they’re confirmed turncoats. In fact, there was talk of Azad himself set to return.
That did not happen. Azad scotched the rumours. The real breakthrough of BJY is that more and more of the Congress rank and file are impressed by Rahul Gandhi’s BJY, and inclined to join him on the road to Congress revival. Tens and thousands of them are trailing the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress grassroots who have been galvanized by the new-look Rahul Gandhi with his newfound assertiveness.
The biggest BJY-effect is in the fresh perception that Rahul Gandhi is not the ‘Pappu’ he was made out to be. Today, after more than 3000 km on the move, the Gandhi scion is a ‘person of substance’, somebody who knows his mind, and who speaks his mind. The ‘Pappu image’ on which the BJP had invested time, energy and rupees on is gone with the BJY wind.
There are also the Congress leaders who feel betrayed by the BJY. Ageing Congress ‘netas’ who feared their time was up. Leaders like Azad and Anand Sharma. Kapil Sibal and… Those who were quite used to Rahul’s ‘Pappu-image’, and had nurtured it in their own small, little ways. If Azad and Sibal left the Congress, it was because they saw no future in the Congress, and for the Congress.
But, now after what we see of Bharat Jodo Yatra, there must have been “return” signals. However, those signals haven’t been reciprocated. On the contrary, Congress leaders like Kamalnath have made it clear that those who betrayed the Congress and the Gandhi family have no place in the Congress, even if they came with folded hands.
Also, that rebel cabal, the G23, has disappeared, remaining only in title. Nobody talks of the G23 any longer. It’s as if the group was never there. In fact, most of the G23 have come out in praise of Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Some, like Shashi Tharoor, have actually walked alongside Rahul Gandhi. The fact is, one or the other Nehru-Gandhi has always led the Congress without conditions attached. Today, Rahul Gandhi is getting the same acceptance.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, doesn’t matter whose idea it was, has returned the Congress to the Gandhi family. This after a sense of foreboding that the 137-year-old party was slipping out of the Nehru-Gandhi family’s grip, especially after the G23 wrote the obituary of the Gandhi family’s hold over the Congress in a letter to Sonia Gandhi leaked to the Press.
Today, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is making people and political parties sit up and take notice. At home and abroad. There are questions being asked. For example, what if the Bharat Jodo Yatra had been ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’? What if, instead of a straight-line path, it had taken a zigzag route covering more states, and lasting a longer length of time?
And how has the Bharat Jodo Yatra affected the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Modi government? The Bharatiya Janata Party has continuously acted as if the BJY was of no account. But the manner in which the Narendra Modi government has behaved gives clues that the BJY has disturbed the Bharatiya Janata Party.
With Rahul Gandhi on the road for over a 100-plus days, and the optics it has given to the country at large, the BJP is nervous, and confused. The nervousness is showing in the BJP spokesperson-speak. They cannot get their minds off Bharat Jodo Yatra. And their tongues around the right words! The BJY is consuming them. So far, the BJP has no concrete plan to halt the BJY’s progress. The Covid-19 excuse was stillborn. As of now, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is unstoppable.
If anything, the Bharat Jodo Yatra appears to have caused fissures in the ‘Sangh Parivar. Suddenly, RSS functionaries and Sanghi priests are coming out in support of BJY, and are praising the “young man walking for 3000 kilometre”. All of a sudden, the BJP is unsure of its committed Hindu base. Rahul ‘Tapasvi’ Gandhi’s ‘abhay mudra’ is giving the BJP sleepless nights. (IPA Service)