Executive Director, C Voter Foundation
Beginning January 14, de facto Congress Boss Rahul Gandhi has embarked on yet another 67-day Bharat Jodo Yatra. This time, the word Nyay has been inserted after Jodo. Even as he and hordes of Congress leaders were waiting at Delhi airport to board their chartered flights delayed due to fog, news came that yet another close “aide” of Rahul Gandhi has announced his departure from the Congress. This time, it is Milind Deora, son of late Murli Deora, two times Lok Sabha MP from south Bombay and a minister in the UPA government. Along with Sachin Pilot, R. P. N. Singh, Jitin Prasad and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora was a member of the charmed circle of friends and aides of Rahul Gandhi. Barring Sachin Pilot, all the others have quit the Congress. Not a very good way to start a Yatra even as the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are just round the corner.
Given the pathetic state of the Congress in Maharashtra, the departure of Deora may not make a very big difference. After all, Milind Deora himself lost two consecutive Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019. But his departure, which many had predicted as imminent for a long time, reveals all that is wrong with the Congress led by Rahul Gandhi. Unlike Rahul, Milind had publicly supported the abrogation of Article 370. There were a number of other issues over which Milind publicly disagreed with the Congress viewpoint. Besides, like his father, Milind has been close to industrialists with deep pockets. And the manner in which Rahul Gandhi has been attacking corporate tycoons is something he has been very uncomfortable with. There are a large number of Congress leaders like Milind who, in their hearts and following their political instincts, disagree with the “left of centre” and “progressive” stance taken by the Congress under Rahul. On three issues, namely “Hindu Revivalism”, Nationalism and a tough approach towards Pakistan, they feel the Rahul led Congress has committed blunders by blindly opposing the policy decisions of the Narendra Modi led government. The one that stood out till now was the manner in which the Congress “opposed” the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special powers to the state government in Jammu & Kashmir to override laws passed by the Indian parliament. Kashmir is a emotionally sensitive issue for a majority of Indians and Congress looked silly when it did not support the move to abrogate Article 370.
It’s quite incredible how out of touch and disconnected the Congress seems with ordinary Indians. Virtually the entire country is in almost a frenzy like situation ahead of the consecration ceremony at the new Ram temple at Ayodhya scheduled for January 22. Even those who do not flaunt their “Hindutva” are deeply moved by what many say is the symbolic resurgence of Hindu or Indic civilisation. From tribal hamlets in remote forest areas to premium ultra luxury housing societies in big cities, celebrating Ram has become the theme of the times. Some are doing it too aggressively; most are just feeling quietly proud. The liberals can criticise this upsurge all they want. But it is here. In such a situation, how does it make sense to start a Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra? Rahul Gandhi will be somewhere in Assam or north Bengal on January 22. Do his advisors think even local citizens there will pay more attention to him and his Yatra when Narendra Modi is taking part in the consecration ceremony that is going to be telecast and streamed live across the world for anyone who wishes to join in? In what world are they living?
Forget the optics. What does Rahul Gandhi hope and plan to chive with this second round of Yatra? That too when Lok Sabha elections are just weeks away. Most Indians had liked his original Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir that was started in September 2022. Even those who would not vote for the Congress started thinking that Rahul Gandhi the entitled dynast is finally trying to connect with Indian masses. But now? For any political party that wants to survive in the long run, the overwhelming priority has to be winning elections. If you can’t win elections, your ideology, vision and agenda is useless. As I have often stated, the challenge for the Congress is to defeat the BJP in bilateral contests if there is any hope for the opposition alliance to come back to power in Delhi. These battles will be fought in Himachal, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Karnataka-states which the BJP under Modi had virtually swept in 2014 and 2019. In states like Chattisgarh, the BJP had a vote share advantage of 10%. In states like Gujarat, Himachal and Uttarakhand, the vote share advantage was more than 30%.
In all these states, a majority of voters will be either loudly or solemnly celebrating the arrival of Lord Ram to his birthplace. By effectively instructing the Congress to boycott the consecration ceremony and focus instead on his Yatra, does Rahul Gandhi expect voters in these states to switch to the Congress at the polling booth in a few weeks?
You can imagine the delusional world he and his followers are living in.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.