It was snowing closely on the morning of January 30 in Srinagar, the capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir (J&Ok), when former J&Ok Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti showered praises on Rahul Gandhi, who had simply accomplished his four-month-long march throughout the size of India.
“Today, the nation can see a ray of hope in Rahul Gandhi,” said Mufti, who heads the Kashmir valley-based Folks’s Democratic Get together (PDP), whereas addressing a gathering on the conclusion of the Gandhi-led march, generally known as the Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India rally). One other former Chief Minister of J&Ok, Omar Abdullah of the PDP’s arch-rival, the Nationwide Convention, was additionally current. He suggested it was time Gandhi undertook an east-west rally overlaying the breadth of the nation.
Rahul Gandhi, the face of India’s fundamental opposition get together, the Congress, walked 4,000 kilometers over 136 days, braving excessive warmth, rain, and freezing chilly, crossing 12 states and two Union Territories. It’s the greatest political program the Congress get together has undertaken since shedding energy to the Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP) in 2014.
There have been different yatras earlier than. In 1990, as an example, the BJP’s then president Lal Krishna Advani took out the Ram rath yatra in a automotive adorned as a chariot to “awaken and unite” Hindus, who make up four-fifths of the nation’s inhabitants.
Gandhi’s rally triggered lots of of media experiences on points starting from his message on love, tendencies of public participation, logistics, reveals of organizational strength, and the participation of leaders of other opposition parties and important personalities, to his beard, T-shirts, and whether or not or not he was utilizing sunscreen lotion.
As this system got here to its conclusion, journalists and political pundits had been busy discovering a solution to the large query: what did it obtain, particularly by way of The Congress’ electoral prospects within the parliamentary election due subsequent yr?
The Congress has described the rally as “a movement to unite the voices of the people of India, against injustice.” Its leaders have denied that this system is aimed toward projecting the Nehru-Gandhi household scion as a major ministerial candidate.
“The yatra was not for winning elections but against hate,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, the primary non-Gandhi president of the get together in 24 years, mentioned on the concluding occasion. “BJP people are spreading hate in the country. Rahul Gandhi has proven that he can unite the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on issues such as unemployment and inflation.”
Gandhi himself has careworn the a part of rediscovering India – the true essence of India that he alleges the BJP and its ideological-organizational mum or dad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are destroying. On January 29, a day earlier than the concluding occasion, Gandhi wrote on Instagram, “I feel great pride that we embarked on this momentous journey of #BharatJodoYatra to rediscover India’s true strength – Unity.”
Journalist Deepanshu Mohan, nevertheless, described this system as “explicitly packaged for ‘Rahul to discover India’ and ‘India to (re)discover Rahul’.” He opined that it was “difficult to ascertain the real meaning and consequential purpose of a journey that made an entitled being, with no official role or position in a party” to embark on such a journey “built with lots of resources and public relations effort.”
The 52-year-old Gandhi, whose father, grandmother, and great-grandfather served as prime ministers, and whose mom chaired India’s Congress-led ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, is perceived to endure from a picture downside: the picture of a non-serious politician, or fairly a reluctant politician.
The BJP and different Hindu nationalist organizations have additionally created, by way of concerted effort, the picture of Gandhi as a “child” whose solely declare to the highest seat is dynastic advantage. Leaders and supporters of the BJP have nicknamed him Pappu, a boy who at all times fails in exams – one to make enjoyable of, a laughing stock. Even Congress dissenters seeking to hobnob with or be a part of the BJP typically focused him by branding him “childish” and “non-serious.”
With Gandhi’s rally now at an finish, there are three fundamental inquiries to which the political observers are looking for solutions: what has Gandhi achieved, what did his get together obtain, and the way does it profit the prospect of the opposition forces forward of subsequent yr’s nationwide common elections. The final query is vital, because the Congress, regardless of its decline, remains to be perceived to be the glue that may hold opposition forces collectively.
The primary query is vital as nicely. There may be the notion that Modi’s unmatched stature within the nation’s political sphere is the principle purpose behind the BJP’s unprecedented success. No opposition face can match Modi, political analysts have typically identified.
Faces have been vital in Indian politics. It took a Jayaprakash Narayan (who by no means contested elections himself) to topple Indira Gandhi’s rule in 1977, a V.P. Singh to topple Rajiv Gandhi’s in 1989, and an Atal Bihari Vajpayee to deliver the BJP to energy in 1998. Even in 2004, when the Congress eliminated Vajpayee’s authorities, the get together had Sonia Gandhi as its face.
Has Rahul Gandhi managed to reshape his public picture? A Press Belief of India report that a number of main Indian information shops carried was headlined: “Pappufication’ may be over, beard symbolizes image makeover: Experts on Rahul Gandhi.”
However what did the Congress obtain, aside from having the ability to present those that they’re nonetheless able to finishing up applications of such scale – maybe, as the one opposition get together in India? The rally was not attended by leaders of opposition events which have a competing curiosity with the Congress – the Trinamool Congress, the Aam Aadmi Get together, and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, for instance. Whereas a number of floor experiences identified that the rally uplifted the morale of Congress employees in several states that it handed by way of, there was no indication of the get together getting any instant reduction from infighting in state items. That is one thing that supporters of India’s ruling dispensation are asking: has Gandhi even managed to unite his personal get together?
Whereas all these points will proceed to be debated, to what extent the rally might assist form the opposition alliance will rely largely on how the get together fares within the state meeting elections due this yr – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Rajasthan, the states the Yatra handed by way of, and Chhattisgarh, a Congress-ruled state that the rally bypassed.