INDIA allies’ apathy casts shadow on Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay Yatra

It seems that the managers of Yatra failed to inspire confidence among INDIA bloc partners, who are busy protecting their narrow interests even as the BJP workers, enthused by the Ram Mandir opening, are trying to build emotional connect with the electorate, writes Mudit Mathur

Indifferent attitude of allies of the INDIA alliance and hostility of BJP-led governments in the states seem to put Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra under eclipse. It appears that the managers of Yatra failed to inspire confidence among the allies of the INDIA alliance. The alliance was formed with an aim to take on the thriving BJP but it failed to offer a consensual potential alternative to match the persona of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is undoubtedly organizationally far better equipped than the Congress and its allies.

While allies of INDIA alliance are busy in protecting their narrow interests, the BJP workers are distributing “Prasad and soil of Ram Janambhoomi” to the Hindu households for developing emotional connect with the electorate at booth level. The allies of Congress-led INDIA alliance are not allowing Congress to occupy its lost space in their respective states as they are not interested in the revival of the grand old party as they don’t want to invite problems for themselves. Most of the regional parties have flourished in their respective states on the strength of which was once the traditional vote bank of the Congress party before it turned its back on the grand old party. They only want the survival of the Congress not the revival as party stalwarts conceived in their mind.

Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra resumed after two-day off from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal on 28 January, amid high voltage political turbulence precipitated in Bihar by one of its ally Janata Dal (United) as its supremo Nitish Kumar suddenly snapped ties with Congress and Lalu Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal and returned back to BJP led NDA fold. It was a unique example of political opportunism by swapping support for retaining chief ministerial post.

Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra commenced on January 14 in Manipur and will conclude on March 20 in Mumbai. The organisational weakness and lack of coordination of the Congress had surfaced right from the day one of Nyay Yatra which is designed to unite deprived classes of the society, who could not get benefits of government-led schemes and also raise demand for a nation-wide caste census.

The Yatra faced stiff challenge from the government of Assam led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who had deserted Congress to join the BJP after he met cold response from Rahul Gandhi who was promoting his rival Tarun Gogoi in state politics. In the backdrop of strained relationship with the state’s political head, an FIR was slapped against Rahul Gandhi allegedly as a revengeful action.

The criminal case has been instituted against him following the directive of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who challenged Rahul Gandhi to arrest him after the Lok Sabha election. After facing violence in north-eastern states, the safety of Rahul-led Yatra has become the prime concern of the Congress party.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi repeatedly attacked the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the crisis in the state, particularly the Prime Minister’s failure to visit Manipur since May, when violence began in the state. The Congress also raised with the Central government the issue of assault on its MLA and Manipur party chief at a recent meeting of Meitei legislators called by radical outfit Arambai Tenggol in Imphal. Congress state president K Meghachandra was assaulted by members of the group during the course of the meeting.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge also wrote a letter to Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Saturday, claiming that he had come to know that some miscreants might foment trouble during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in West Bengal.

 “I have been made aware that some miscreants may foment trouble for the yatra. I am not sure that the intention may be to show the state administration in bad light or disrupt the yatra,” Kharge said. In his letter, Kharge also cited Gandhi family’s closeness with Mamata Banerjee and hoped that the West Bengal Chief Minister would ensure that all security concerns are addressed.

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which started in Manipur, entered Bengal’s Cooch Behar district from Assam on 25th January. Rahul Gandhi told a gathering amid loud cheers in Cooch Behar of Bengal, “I am happy to have come to West Bengal. We have come here to listen to you and stand with you. BJP-RSS are spreading hatred, violence and injustice. So, INDIA formation is going to fight Anyay (injustice) together. The rally’s entry into Bengal came a day after Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, a key member of the INDIA bloc, announced that her side would go solo in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Kharge’s  letter to Mamata Banerjee came a day after West Bengal Congress State President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleged that the administration did not allow the meeting of Congress workers in Siliguri, and also denied permission to yatra in some places, citing exams of students as the reason. Adhir Ranjan said that after Assam, Rahul Gandhi’s yatra is facing problems in Bengal too. Trinamool MP Santanu Sen later came down heavily on Adhir Ranjan’s remarks and accused him of being an agent of the BJP and alleged that the Congress leader was making these accusations on the instructions of the BJP.

The Congress general secretary in charge of communications, Jairam Ramesh, on the other hand, refuted Banerjee’s allegation that the Congress failed in its courtesy to even inform her about the Yatra passing through Bengal despite Trinamul being an integral part of the INDIA bloc. “Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had both written to her and e- mailed her informing her of Rahulji’s schedule in Bengal,” Ramesh said. “Mamata Banerjee is one of the most important pillars of the INDIA coalition. She is one of the tallest and most experienced leaders of this country. The Congress and its top leadership respects Mamata Banerjee and we all know that she holds a special place and recognition in the political landscape of this country,” the Congress spokesperson said and added: “We will find a solution to this impasse.” “She had been invited. Our leaders – Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi – all of them want leaders from TMC to come and participate in Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. We especially want CM Banerjee to come, even if it means managing to take 10-15 minutes out of her busy schedule. Her joining the Yatra will enhance its pride and impact,” Ramesh contended.

The first day of Yatra was marred with defection of one of the closest aide of Rahul Gandhi, Milind Deora to Shiv Sena headed by Eknath Shinde. It was another blow to Rahul Gandhi’s choice in Maharashtra after Jitin Prasada (Uttar Pradesh) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Madya Pradesh) had parted ways after being disillusioned with his leadership.

Now only Sachin Pilot remains among the second line of leadership which was once considered as coterie of Rahul Gandhi. During Rajasthan assembly elections, none other than prime minister Narendra Modi referred to injustice to Pilot and neglect of his Gurjar community. While campaigning in Bhilwara district, Modi said that the Congress is victimising its senior leader, Sachin Pilot, who is also Rajesh Pilot’s son.

Many old guards and senior Congress leaders who raised collective voice against the state of affairs in the party and inertia among top political leadership were either sidelined or they left the party after being disillusioned with its high command. Seasoned leaders like Gulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor, Mukul Wasnik, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Veerappa Moily, Prithviraj Chavan, Manish Tiwari, Vivek Tankha and Milind Deora were prominent faces who had formed G23.

Digvijay Singh and Kamal Nath remain indifferent to Yatra while Bhupesh Baghel have been entrusted the role of convenor for Bihar after Nitish Kumar episode. The party insiders feel that some sycophants of Gandhi scion, despite their inexperience have grabbed important roles in the party organization.