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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 38 September 10, 2022

Hoping Congress Party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra Turns Into A Mass Contact Campaign | Arun Srivastava

Friday 9 September 2022

by Arun Srivastava

Sceptics are apprehensive of the real objectives of the Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, whether it has been launched to check the spread of the rightist forces, communalising the Indian society and restore the dignity and prestige of the Constitution or to unite the Congress. They also seek a clarification about the capability of Rahul Gandhi in uniting the Congress as the party has lost its mooring and credibility after he emerged as the new face of the party.

Nevertheless undeterred of these cynics Rahul Gandhi launched his Bharat Jodo Yatra on September 7, after offering obeisance to his father Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur, where he was assassinated in 1991. Choosing Sriperumbudur for launching Yatra is quite significant. While it would undoubtedly prove to be the turning point in Indian politics and project Rahul Gandhi as the challenger to Narendra Modi, more than this it aims at completely reshaping and redesigning the political contour of the country.

An insight into the tenor and character of the questions put by cynics makes it resemble like the trepidations expressed by the BJP leaders. From their early jibes of describing Rahul as Pappu, to the recent attacks, they have been trying to create confusion amongst the Congress rank and file and also amid the common Indians that he is a worthless creature. Their main thrust of course has been on his incapability to keep united the Congress.

It is equally important that coinciding with Rahul’s move, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has taken up the gigantic task of unifying the opposition parties. During his three day stay in Delhi from September 4 to 6 he met almost all the top opposition leaders. This has helped erase the fear phobia from the minds of the opposition leaders. Interestingly almost all the senior leaders were seen hurling jibes at him during these days. Obviously question arises why the BJP has turned desperate and fear stricken just after Rahul launched his mission.

It is quite noticeable that ED, IT and CBI has become quite proactive. CBI has been raising the houses of prominent leaders or close aides of the senior leaders. Pushing IT and CBI into action clearly implies that Modi government and Amit Shah intend to chock the financial source of the opposition, particularly of the Congress. While Modi has outright rejected the demand to make public the financing source to his election fund, which receives crores of money from the corporate and even PSUs, he is creating all problems for the opposition.

Only a couple of days back realising political ambivalence of the opposition leaders Rahul in his speech at Ramlila Maidan, said he is not afraid of the Enforcement Directorate and their questioning. "The ED asked me to sit for 55 hrs... but I am not afraid of your [PM Modi’s] ED. Whether it is 55 hrs or five months or five years." He also said Modi cannot be the Prime Minister without support from the media or businessmen. "The media is also of these two corporate houses, the whole of media is under those two businessmen. Modiji works for those two businessmen and those two businessmen work for Narendra Modiji."

Speaking at the launch of Yatra Rahul Gandhi aid the tricolour is under attack by BJP and RSS that are dividing India on the lines of religion and language, and urged the people to defend the ideas and values behind the flag. He alleged that the BJP considers the tricolour its personal property. "This flag guarantees every single Indian protection in this country. It guarantees every single person a free and fair life in this country. It guarantees everybody the right to practice every religion, to speak every language that one desires. And today, brothers and sisters, this flag is under attack," he charged. "Please remember it is not enough to just salute the flag, it is important to defend the ideas and the values behind the flag," he said.

The speech of the Chanakya of the BJP, Amit Shah, at a meet in Mumbai on September 7, makes it absolutely explicit that the BJP is on the mission to split the opposition parties.

BJP strategist Shah has been pursuing this strategic line to finish the Congress. But his move to put the entire blame on Rahul and project him as the spoiler of the party did not work as desired by him though it has scratched his image to some extent. The middle-class people discussing the future of the country in their tranquil and cosy drawing rooms, blame Rahul for the decline of the party. It underlines they have completely fallen into the political trap of the RSS and BJP and are unwilling to look at the picture from another angle.

The situation has turned scary by the ruthless and indiscriminate use of the ED, CBI and IT by the Modi government against opponents. The opposition parties have lost the will to raise their heads against their machinations and dirty designs. These agencies are not used only to dry their funding channels, they have undertaken the task of victimising and terrorising the leaders.

Rahul Gandhi has already started the move to ensure participation of the civil societies. On August 22 he met members of the nearly 150 civil society organisations at a national conclave to discuss the plans of Yatra. He told the members of these societies that it is time for us “to unite and march in solidarity.”

The padyatra is a mass movement to create awareness among people. The stress of Rahul has been on Yatra serving as a political bridge that connects opposition parties with grassroots movements. He pointed to the possibility of resuscitating Indian democracy. Significantly some of the groups, which have been maintaining distance from political parties, after this meet have decided to engage with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. What was worse, scared of this move of Rahul, the Godi media has launched the canard that some NGOs, the “andolanjivis” have planned to join the Congress.

In fact Yogendra Yadav, chief of Swaraj India, pointed out that over the last year, there have been several efforts to create such a bridge. Several eminent persons, intellectuals and activists met in Delhi in September 2021 to explore the possibility under the working name “India Deserves Better”. Subsequent meetings were held in Bengaluru, Kochi, Jaipur, Prayagraj, and Guwahati. Some of these participants have carried the initiative forward as “Hum Hindustani”. The basic idea is to forge a broader unity of all those who wish to reclaim the republic and strengthen the hands of democratic resistance.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra has wider political implications. No doubt Rahul Gandhi and other central leaders cannot evade the responsibility of having disconnected from the ground-level cadres and leaders, the primary blame for the present scenario lies on the state satraps. They turned towards the new powerhouse owned by the BJP or the regional parties and dumped the Congress. In almost all the states, the scenario is the same; whether it is Bihar, Bengal, Odisha or Uttar Pradesh. The Congress leaders who had enjoyed power throughout their lives were feeling like fish out of water.

In its desperation to pull out the country of the mess of poverty and backwardness and put back the economy on the correct track, the Congress leadership pursued this policy, but the local satraps failed to reach the benefits of these policies to the people at the ground level. This situation was used by the rightist forces to consolidate their grip. A closer look at the growth of the rightist forces across the country will reveal that most of the regional parties have also inculcated the rightist vision and ideas. Since they operate at the state level the prevailing political exigencies did not allow them to completely divorce the idea of equality, socialism and secularism.

If one recalls the reasons cited by Rahul while quitting the office of president of the party, it would become obvious that he did not approve of the political stance and way of functioning of his state satraps. He in an indirect manner put the blame for the defeat of the Congress in 2019 election on them. The allegations of the dissidents of Rahul being ignorant and immature in handling the party may be right to a major extent. He became president soon after entering into party. The gigantic task of providing the ideological line and guiding the functioning of the party lay before him. It was not an easy task for him to run Congress. But it was the non-cooperation of the state satraps and their vested interest that made him frustrated.

Over these years Rahul has come to realise that the only mechanism to rejuvenate the Congress was to involve the common people who are not associated with Congress. It is interesting to notice that the 150 civil society bodies who will be part of the yatra have been severe critics of the Congress party. It is the urgency of the situation and compulsion to check the rightist forces from ravaging the political and democratic institutions of the country that have responded to his call in spite of their disagreements with the Congress Party. This underlines the importance of the programme.

Significantly around 1 lakh citizens, those who are not associated with Congress, have volunteered to join the Yatra at different stages. An exercise to awaken the common people towards Modi’s move to diminish democracy and erode the democratic institutions and the constitution, the Yatra is a challenge to the RSS and Modi government. There is no doubt that this would have kinetic effects on the polity and politics.

Some people are trying to find a similarity between L K Advani’s Rath Yatra in the early 1990s and Rahul’s Bharat Yatra. But unfortunately, they prefer to ignore that it was Advani’s Yatra that had sown the seeds of communalism, communal violence and politics of hatred. But this Yatra is a journey to integrating people by promoting a message of unity, and hope and bringing new ideas for India’s future. Let us hope it brings new energy to the Congress Party, and to all democratic formations and also gives strength to activists of local and regional social movements who connect with this mass contact campaign.

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