Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s 3,570-km-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 7, has triggered hyperactivity among his fans, many of whom are looking at it as a stepping stone to a probable resurrection of the party. While Rahul has been attracting crowds, it remains to be seen how much of this can translate into electoral benefits for the Congress.
In Kerala, Rahul had opted to play the ‘people’s politician’, stopping at street shops, tasting local delicacies, interacting with commoners, entertaining children, rowing snake boats and spending the night at the Union Christian College in Aluva.
Celebrated filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who met Rahul in Thiruvananthapuram, was impressed and believes the Gandhi scion has the ability to unite India against divisive and oppressive political forces. “All secular forces must join the fight initiated by Rahul Gandhi against the dark forces that are undermining our communal harmony by propagating fear and divisive tactics,” the 81-year-old Gopalakrishnan told INDIA TODAY.
Like him, Dr N. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, considers Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra a novel initiative. ”I’ve no close associations with him and met him only during the yatra. But I found him to be a dedicated leader who wants to transform India. His yatra will inspire the youth and secular-minded citizens to strengthen our democratic traditions. Whether in Kerala or other states, the Congress party is mired in dogfights over leadership instead of fighting the enemy outside. The yatra will end such fights and unite the party,” says Radhakrishnan.
The worry for the Congress leadership is the party’s inability to effectively take up issues both inside and outside Parliament, apart from rampant desertions by leaders as well as elected representatives, many of whom have aligned with the BJP. ”The Congress appears like a leftover party, one abandoned by its leaders and cadre. The think-tank built by Rahul Gandhi has migrated to the BJP, including the likes of Tom Vadakkan and Jyotiraditya Scindia,” says Dr Sebastian Paul, former MP from Ernakulam and Supreme Court advocate.
Paul feels Rahul’s yatra is failing to address burning issues. “It’s a political picnic in Kerala. When the yatra ends, the Congress will be left all the more divided. The presidential poll will seal the fate, with more leaders abandoning the party,” he claims.
Rahul faces many obstacles in revamping the Congress in the states. He doesn’t appear to have a strategy in place to counter the BJP while his advisors lack credibility. His late father, Rajiv Gandhi, had inherited a stronger Congress, with powerful leaders in the states and an accommodative Opposition. Now, the situation is different with the BJP exploring all ways and means to achieve its stated goal of a Congress-mukt India.
“What Rahul Gandhi lacks is national appeal. He is rated by many as immature and one not ready to shoulder responsibilities. His only focus seems to be to ensure that his Wayanad seat is safe in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” says P. Krishna Prasad, former CPI(M) legislator. Rahul and the Congress need to design newer strategies to fight the BJP at the national level and take the Opposition along. The Bharat Jodo Yatra can, at best, be considered some sort of a start. But what about uniting the grand old party first?