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100 days of Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi, leaders walk on road to Cong revival Featured

  29 December 2022

A clearer picture of the impact on the party's electoral fortunes would emerge in the assembly polls next year, including in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

As the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' enters its 100th day Friday, Congress watchers feel it has found some answers the party had been looking for on the road to 2024 but questions remain whether it will yield electoral dividends going forward. 

The Kanyakumari to Kashmir foot march has also courted many controversies in the last three months and led to several fiery exchanges between the Congress and the BJP including on Rahul Gandhi's ever-growing grey beard and his Burberry T-shirt.

With over 2,800 km under his belt, Gandhi has managed to catch the attention of his supporters as well as detractors and seen quite a few celebrities including from the tinsel town and academia walking alongside him from time to time.

Amid questions over the yatra translating into any electoral dividend, two recently- concluded assembly elections turned out to be a mixed bag for the Congress as it was drubbed in Gujarat to its lowest-ever tally while won in Himachal.

A clearer picture of the impact on the party's electoral fortunes would emerge in the assembly polls next year, including in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which were covered well by the Yatra.

Former Congress leader Sanjay Jha, who had also been a party spokesperson, said the Bharat Jodo Yatra could become a "game-changer" for the Congress in the long term."For one, it has revived the political brand of Rahul Gandhi. The BJP cannot ridicule him anymore using their 'fake news malicious campaign'. Secondly, the Congress has at last connected directly with the people through this mass movement," he said.

Noting that it will definitely percolate to the grassroots, Jha stressed that the critical part from now on is for Congress to sustain the mobilisation through its workers who are galvanized."The Himachal Pradesh result shows that the Congress can still pull off a win against BJP if it demonstrates the hunger to win. Next year, the electoral impact of BJY will be more visible in states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, etc.," he told PTI.

Sanjay Pandey, a political commentator and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the yatra has given a "glimmer of hope" to the party and enthused ordinary party workers but whether that would translate into electoral gains, only time will tell.

Sushila Ramaswamy, a professor at the Department of Political Science in Delhi’s Jesus and Mary College, believes the yatra ought to have laid down more tangible political objectives at the start.She asserted that electoral politics is very much part of what a political party should be doing and questioned the logic of yatra not going to poll-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal.

The yatra has traversed eight states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and now Rajasthan.The yatra will enter Delhi on December 24 and after a break of about eight days will move on to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and finally Jammu and Kashmir.

It has seen participation from a cross-section of society, including film and TV celebrities such as Pooja Bhatt, Riya Sen, Sushant Singh, Swara Bhasker, Rashami Desai, Akanksha Puri and Amol Palekar.

Besides participation from tinsel town celebrities, writers, military veterans including former Navy Chief Admiral L Ramdas, Opposition leaders such as Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray and NCP's Supriya Sule, and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, have also joined the march at various points in time.

Controversies have been part and parcel of the yatra and it started with the BJP attacking Gandhi for wearing a Burberry T-shirt allegedly worth Rs 41,000 in Tamil Nadu to which the Opposition party had hit back with a "10 lakh suit" barb directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This was just the beginning as the Congress and BJP continued to trade barbs, be it over the grand old party tweeting a picture of khaki shorts on fire or the ruling party taking a swipe over a video of Rahul Gandhi meeting a controversial Christian pastor.

Even Gandhi's beard made it to the war of words between the two parties with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at a poll rally in Gujarat claiming that the former Congress chief had started to look like the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, drawing a rebuke from the Congress which said he sounded like a "troll".

There have also been times when the party has come under a cloud while the yatra was on.The Maharashtra leg of the yatra saw fissures surface between the Congress and its ideologically-incompatible ally Shiv Sena after Rahul Gandhi attacked V D Savarkar over his mercy petitions to the British.

During the Madhya Pradesh leg, a crisis erupted in the party's Rajasthan unit, the yatra's next destination, when in an interview Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot slammed his former deputy Sachin Pilot and called him a 'gaddar' (traitor).The matter was resolved with party general secretary K C Venugopal brokering an uneasy truce just ahead of the yatra entering the desert state.

Though the jury is still out on whether the Congress' "last throw of the dice" will pay electoral dividends, it seems the party's yatris continue to believe in the mantra -- if yatra be the food of love, walk on.

Aishwariya Rai

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