Journey to power in New Delhi may not be easy for the Opposition against a formidable, well-oiled machine of BJP
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra traversing so far through 10 states, reaching almost the last lap, has stirred the party back to the near centre-stage of Indian politics, with a spontaneous crowd responding to it.
The Yatra has evoked interest among the people with the possibility of the rise of a counter-saffron narrative, its avowed aim. It has given acceptance to Rahul Gandhi as a leader even by the BJP. Their top functionaries now accept he has arrived. But will the emerging Third Front at Khammam at Telangana chief minister KC Rao’s rally dampen its effort?
Is the yatra a success? To an extent, it can draw many eminent persons from the society —the youth and children. His ‘T’ shirt is a great draw and connects. It also shows that Congress can meticulously plan a 3500 kms march from Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir, traversing through 12 states. In every state eminent social persons have been part of it despite severe derisive criticism from a curious or awed BJP and its parivar.
Some of the names include former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Tushar Gandhi, Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, NCP’s Surpriya Sule, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, activist Harsh Mander, Bollywood actors, former RAW secretary and intelligence bureau ex-chief AS Dulat, actors Amol Palekar, Riya Sen, Sandhya Gokhale to Swara Bhaskar, singer Sunidhi Chauhan, IIT professors, former defence, police and other officials.
It was touted that though it might succeed in Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, the Yatra might not succeed in the limited areas of Delhi and UP. It surprisingly succeeded in the kisan belt of western UP, Haryana and Delhi the swelling crowds put the city out of gear.
Still the yatra is not beyond it. The best quote has come from Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. He said at a book launch in Kolkata that the Yatra has evoked a massive response. However, has noted: “Translating that into votes is the next challenge and does not follow automatically”. That’s the problem.
Rahul Gandhi may have sent a message of love but he has also been seen as “loveable” to the BJP as well. His barbs are soft and he has not yet been critical of the BJP’s policies: economic, education, privatisation or simple seizure of 10-year-new cars, tractors or high tolls that make miseries deeper and inflation sharper or even for ballot paper voting.
How many of the nine states going to polls from February can win? Even in Tripura it has entered into an alliance with the CPI-M. Its presence is weak in Meghalaya, Nagaland or Mizoram. The battle will be tough in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. It cannot go alone in Maharashtra, Bihar; it does not have an ally in West Bengal, Odisha. In most states, it has fledgling organisations, not a match against the BJP.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has done well to invite 21 like-minded parties to join the concluding Srinagar ceremony on January 30, Mahatma Gandhi martyr’s day. That’s where he left the chinks too by not inviting AAP, JD-S, BRS, BJD and Akali Dal.
The latest January 18 Khammam mega rally by Telangana chief Minister and BRS leader K C Rao brings out this weakness and finds presence of a number of them for the launch of a third front and himself as a possible PM. Rao said, “The Congress and the BJP only indulge in verbal fights''. It was attended by Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI general secretary D Raja. How is it to be interpreted? Is it a rally for bargaining seat-sharing with the Congress or splintering its effort? How can the Left ally with Congress in one state and also form the Third Front?
Politics is becoming interesting and intriguing. It is being interpreted as a setback to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s effort to unite the opposition. There is apprehension that if KCR move succeeds it might dampen what the Congress is trying to achieve against the BJP. Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has yet to open her cards.
Most of these parties have splintered away from the Congress whether KCR’s BRS or West Bengal’s TMC or Andhra’s YSR Congress. Even SP and RJD are wary of the rise of the Congress. They fear the minority Muslim votes shifting to the Congress.
The success of the yatra apart, the journey to power in New Delhi may not be easy for the Opposition against a formidable, well-oiled machine of BJP. The Khammam rally may be a new beginning of intense fisticuffs among the opposition ranks. Would it again be advantage BJP or Congress still has something up its sleeves to outshine the run up to 2024? The nation awaits the answer.
(The author is a senior journalist)