- The Grand Old Party is at the receiving end over the last eight years since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliances assumed power at the Centre is well documented. That much of the heft enjoyed by Congress a decade back has been ceded to several regional political parties needs no further elaboration as well. The likes of Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, YSR Congress, and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti just to name a few have assumed prominence at the cost of the Grand Old Party is not lost on the discerning people. Congress’s almost sycophantic penchant for the Gandhi-Nehru family to don the leadership mantle despite the Gandhi’s consistently failing to deliver at the hustings defies logic and common political sense.
- Thankfully, the growing clamor to undertake organizational elections in Congress is finally seeing the day of light in the ensuing days. As is its wont, Congress leaders vociferously demanding the Gandhi scion to take over the presidentship starkly exposes the leadership’s lack of understanding of the altered equations on the ground. Against this backdrop, Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress’s first attempt at mass contact in a long while, is an improvement to the extent that motion is better than appearing moribund. However, this comes as party elections are again caught up in petty controversies does mangle the message a bit.
- Yes, the yatra won’t hurt the party-unless Congress leaders, especially Rahul Gandhi, who make the mistake of thinking that trying to establish direct contact with people is what the party needs, or needs the most, to win polls. Mind you, the electoral reality doesn’t allow for such romantic notions unless backed by a solid message already communicated and one that stands out from the clutter. Remember, LK Advani’s rath yatra, YSR Reddy’s Andhra marches, later emulated by son Jagan, Mamata Banerjee’s many marches in Bengal – all of these had a good story to tell and sell. Conversely, Congress and Rahul don’t have anything right now to tell or sell that will attract new support or even hold back those deserting.
- Why is it that not having a solid political message will render the yatra a damp squib? First, Congress has lost the ideas battle even as BJP has got smart on where and how to deploy its trump card Hindutva plank, become a past master at social engineering, hijacked the erstwhile left-of-center welfarist political line, and packaged muscular nationalism in a people-pleasing way. Second, and related to the first, Congress has lost so much ground in so many states – it hasn’t won an election on its own since 2018 – that even if it were to come up with a good story, it will lack heft. Thus, more than Patras Congress must do the real hard work of rebuilding at least four or five major states on a war footing.
- Otherwise, Bharat may not take much notice. Moreover, note that Congress has been lackadaisical after losing, occasionally making state-level appointments that have ended in disaster and/or defeat. The opposition leadership role that used to be so proudly shouldered has been ceded to a few strong regional satraps. Little wonder then non-Congress opposition parties have started making their own plans. In conclusion, at best, the yatra will be a Congress spectacle gaining very little in terms of people embracing the party akin to earlier times.