Cong doesn’t want to let go of momentum provided by yatra

Days before the Bharat Jodo Yatra will culminate in Srinagar, the Congress party will start a two-month long mass contact program called “Hath se Hath Jodo” from January 26 to further spread the message of the 3,500 km-long foot march, writes Amit Agnihotri

Buoyed over huge public response to its nation-wide yatra that will end on Jan 30, the Congress is preparing for its next campaign to sustain the momentum generated by the 3,500 km foot march.

The yatra, which started on Sep 7, 2022 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, will culminate in Srinagar, UT Jammu and Kashmir with Rahul Gandhi hoisting the Indian flag.

Days before that, the party will start a two-month long mass contact program called “Hath se hath jodo” from Jan 26 to further spread the message of the foot march.

All through the yatra, which aimed to counter the BJP’s alleged divisive politics through the “Bharat Jodo” slogan, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi flagged issues like growing economic disparity, social disharmony and political centralization, besides unemployment and price rise to target the Central government.

“The central message – to unite the people of India – has already been achieved. The yatra now represents the voice of all the Indians,” AICC general secretary organization KC Venugopal said as the New Year began.

The leader noted that the unity factor behind the 3,500 km foot march cannot be measured in terms of either the distance covered or the number of people who joined the yatra.

“The unity factor cannot be measured through how many kilometers covered or how many lakhs of people joined but by the tears of the people whom Rahul Gandhi hugged,” said Venugopal.

The Congress leaders also claimed that the yatra had demolished Rahul Gandhi’s distorted image projected by the BJP and brought out the real person, who braved heat, rain and biting cold while walking, before the masses.

Rahul himself claimed the response of the people got better as the yatra moved from south to north India, passing through BJP-ruled states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

As the yatra entered Delhi, the Congress complained to Union Home Minister Amit Shah over alleged lapses in the security of Rahul Gandhi.

“There have been several breaches in the security of Rahul Gandhi. We reported the one in Delhi on Dec 24 to the Union home minister Amit Shah but he has not even bothered to reply. This is against parliamentary norms. When a national party writes to the home minister he should at least reply or ask his junior to do the needful. But in this case, a DIG of the CRPF against whom we had filed a complaint to the minister, replied,” said Venugopal.

The Congress general secretary further said the BJP had tried hard to defame Rahul Gandhi and derail the yatra over various issues, including Covid protocols, but the opposition party was determined to complete the entire stretch.

“The yatra has been a listening exercise for us. We have listened to the people and understood their problems through a large number of meetings. The spirit of the yatra has been achieved through several visits to religious and spiritual centers, interactions and performances by numerous artists and two concerts,” said Venugopal.

“Through these mass contact efforts, the yatra is a significant milestone in the Congress party’s rich tradition of representing the voice of all Indians,” he said.

So elated were the Congress veterans with the yatra, that MP unit chief Kamal Nath and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel suggested that Rahul should be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2024 national elections. Congress communications in charge Jairam Ramesh soon countered them saying the aim of the yatra was social mobilization and not winning elections.

New campaign

Besides the yatra which started in 2022, the Congress was upbeat over the successful election of a new party president Mallikarjun Kharge, who took charge on Oct 26, 2022 and is now driving change in the grand old party.

Kharge was not the president when the yatra was launched in Sep but has all along urged that Rahul’s effort should be supported by everyone in the party.

As soon as the yatra ends, the party will start a two-month long mass contact program called “Hath se hath jodo” to further spread the message of the foot march.

“The nation-wide yatra will not end on Jan 30. We will take its spirit forward through the ‘hath se hath jodo’ campaign where we will try to reach every doorstep and carry Rahul Gandhi’s message across the country,” said Venugopal.

Kharge has asked workers to distribute a letter from Rahul Gandhi to all the households and gather information about the family members, which will be useful for the party in future, during the new campaign.

The Karnataka unit, which will face assembly polls in April 2023, has started the ‘hath se hath jodo’ campaign from January 1 and it would serve as a pilot for the other states, which will start the new campaign from Jan 26.

The Congress will also present a charge sheet of the central government and distribute it among the masses. There will also be women’s marches at the end of the new campaign and the plan would be led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Later in the year, a west to east version of the Bharat Jodo yatra is likely.

Plenary Session

In the middle of the “hath se hath jodo” campaign, the grand old party will hold its 85th Plenary Session at Raipur, Chhattisgarh from Feb 24-26, where elections to the Congress Working Committee will be held and Kharge’s election will be endorsed.

Elections to the CWC were a key promise of new Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge when he sought votes for the top party post. Apart from that, revamping the party organization to prepare for the future challenges is also on the cards and will include having half of all office bearers at 50 years of age.

Kharge had dissolved the CWC, which had no elections for the past 20 years, the day he had joined office of party chief and replaced it with a steering committee to discharge regular functions till the plenary.

Kharge wants accountability and performance measurement of leaders at all levels. He has asked the party functionaries that organizational appointments should not become a mere ritual which does not benefit the Congress. The Congress chief has asked the functionaries to ensure that proper representation to all segments of society is given during appointment of office bearers and all the persons should feel related to the party.

During the session, the party leaders will debate six major subjects like politics, economy, farmers, security, social harmony, education and youth and come out with resolutions over the same.

Opposition Jodo

In some ways, Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra has become an ‘opposition jodo’ march as several regional parties supported the former Congress chief’s effort.

Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin of the DMK participated in the yatra’s launch in Kanyakumari while NCP leader Supriya Sule and Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray faction leader Aditya Thackeray joined the yatra in Maharashtra.

Bihar chief minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar appreciated the former Congress chief while Sena’s Sanjay Raut too expressed similar views.

Actor and NMM leader Kamal Hasan joined the yatra in Delhi besides NC leader Farooq Abdullah and Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Priyanka Chaturvedi. Before the yatra entered Delhi, DMK MP Kanimozhi walked beside Rahul in neighbouring Haryana.

In UP, former chief ministers Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav skipped the yatra but wished Rahul and thanked him for inviting them. RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary also did not attend but sent party workers to the yatra.

In UT Jammu and Kashmir, both Farooq Abdullah and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti will join the yatra, which has also been welcomed by TMC MP Shatrughan Sinha.

Though the Congress has not started working on the larger anti-BJP opposition platform ahead of the 2024 national polls, Rahul has said the Congress is prepared to play the anchor role.