The Congress’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra faced its first setback with the party’s Goa unit dismantling this week.
But Congress media department head and Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Jairam Ramesh told CNN-news18 in an exclusive interview that it was no setback.
‘Geography matters, not politics’
There has been a lot of buzz about the route of the yatra and the fact that it does not appear to be focusing on poll-bound states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
On this, Ramesh said, “It was always a Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra. We always wanted it south to north, like how the Bhakti Movement spread centuries ago. Kanyakumari now has a Congress MP but a few years ago it had a BJP MP. We would have begun it there even then.”
It is geography that matters, not politics, he said.
“There is no way we could have reached Gujarat or Himachal from Kanyakumari on foot before elections there. It takes at least 90 days and a 56-inch chest man cannot have accomplished the feat of reaching the two states before the polls after starting in Kanyakumari on September 7,” said Ramesh, taking an apparent dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We also decided on a route with convenient logistics and permissible on security grounds. In any case, the Bharat Jodo Yatra was not meant as a strategy for state elections.”
With Rahul Gandhi leading the yatra, the question of Congress’s unresolved leadership crisis naturally crops up.
“Rahul Gandhi will complete the 3,750-km-long Bharat Jodo Yatra with about 120 other Bharat Yatris, 30 per cent of whom are women and whose average age is 38,” Ramesh told CNN-News18. “He sees it as his tapasya. Who becomes Congress president will become abundantly clear on October 1 if no election is needed, or on October 19 if election takes place. Incidentally, Congress is the only party to have a system for election of its president.”
But isn’t people leaving the Congress, like in Goa, a setback to the yatra? “People who want to leave will leave,” said Ramesh. “Let them. Only the ungrateful or those having skeletons in their cupboard and are afraid or vulnerable will leave. For every ‘big’ name who flees, there are at least 10-15 other youngsters waiting to move up.”
Congress getting its ‘ACT’ together
The yatra, of course, assumes significance with the 2024 Lok Sabha polls not too far away.
“The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a transformational moment in Indian politics: the longest and most extensive padayatra undertaken by any political party. It is not a magic wand, however. While it will certainly galvanise the party machinery, the challenge will be to sustain the momentum and carry out the organisational reforms necessary to deal with the ideological challenge posed by the RSS and electoral challenge posed by the BJP,” said Ramesh. “A beginning has been made in our communications strategy, where the watchword is ACT—Aggression, Conciseness, and Timeliness.”