Rahul GANDHI can look back at the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra and feel justifiably proud. Starting from the southern tip of the country on September 7, the foot march covered 4,000 km. The Congress leader and his team have shown remarkable physical and mental endurance in sticking to the testing schedule. Attired in a T-shirt in the biting cold, the bearded look, the commitment to just carry on — he has shrugged off the tag of a part-time, non-serious politician. To his relief as well as that of the party’s rank and file, he has, it appears, managed to disentangle himself from the BJP’s favourite lampooning sobriquet of ‘Pappu’. His portrayal as an ignoramus, who owed his position to the accident of his birth, could be a thing of the past. The 135-day-long march has done a world of good to Rahul Gandhi’s image, but may not be enough to strengthen the Congress’ organisation.
‘There is no alternative’ to Prime Minister Modi remains an exacting proposition to counter. As the Congress braces for the challenges that lie ahead, it has several tough questions to confront. What did it really achieve with the Bharat Jodo Yatra? What can it count as the substantive insights that can translate into votes? How will the interaction on the streets, so to speak, shape the party’s opinions about going it alone or on stitching a grand alliance? Is Rahul Gandhi the Congress’ choice to lead any united front? Did the march facilitate, in any way, the softening of positions in the Opposition camp? Incremental gains will count for little when faced with the Modi-Shah juggernaut. The BJP has already sounded the 2024 poll bugle.
There’s a message in the intimate, empathetic connect with citizens that the yatra achieved. Issues that impact day-to-day life have a huge resonance. But, all efforts can fall flat in the absence of a clear, decisive, workable organisational strategy to win elections. The Bharat Jodo Yatra can only be a starting point.
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