A 'Yatra' from nowhere to nowhere
For a 'yatra' to successfully take a message to the target groups, or for turning it into an electoral windfall, the profile of the messenger and the message have to merge and become one.
The nomenclature 'Bharat Jodo', preceding the 'Yatra' led by Rahul Gandhi, can hardly fool anyone. It is a euphemism for an exercise to expand the shrinking footprint of Congress and retain it as a family pocket borough. The idea of a country-wide yatra is neither new, nor necessarily always a successful one. Yatras have been a part of the Indian folklore for long.
In independent India, Yatras have also yielded electoral dividends, with varying degrees of success. The nonagenarian BJP leader LK Advani, the unfatigued yatri of our times, would be long remembered for his frequent rath yatras in his hey days, and in the process, pushing his party's score from two seats in Lok Sabha to an impressive tally of 182.
Chandra Shekhar, President of the Janata Party, undertook a padyatra from Kanyakumari to Rajghat in New Delhi, in 1983 to highlight rural India's problems. YSR Reddy's Andhra marches, later emulated by son Jagan and irrepressible Mamata Banerjee's many a forays in Marxist dominated Bengal impacted local politics and were instrumental in ushering regime changes.
Will Rahul Gandhi's Yatra hit his unstated twin objectives - to breathe fresh life in a moribund Congress suffering a death wish, and strengthen his family's vice like grip on the fast decaying party further? The answer to the first is a big 'NO'. The second hardly merits attention - it doesn't matter who heads a party fast hurling towards a sure oblivion. Does anyone bother who helms the Janata Party or Communist Party of India?
Why Rahul's 3500-km odd long Yatra, spanning 12 states and two union territories, can't do to Congress what Advani's could do for the BJP or Mamata's for the TMC? For a Yatra to successfully take a message to the target groups in a convincing manner, or for turning the Yatra labour into an electoral windfall - the profile of the messenger and the message have to merge and become one. The messenger becomes a message. In case of a dichotomy between the two, the Yatra- votes matrix fails. Duplicity, double talk and chicanery seldom work for long.
The ostensible moniker of 150 days long Yatra is - 'Bharat Jodo' and Rahul Gandhi is the face of the message. Is there any connect between the two? For over last two decades, a Trimurti of mother-son duo and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as an occasional guest artist have defined Congress and what it stands for.
The track record of the troika is oxymoron of - Bharat Jodo. The party, during the last two decades, has co-opted people with divisive mind-set, uses archetypal leftist cliches in public discourse and has sought to weaken the very cultural paradigm - Hinduism - which holds a diverse India together.
Worse, the Troika doesn't do so out of any conviction, for it hasn't any. If troika did what it believed in, it would know what it was doing, and worry about its consequences as well. At the national level, Congress's principal rival is BJP. Since the troika suffers from ideological deficit, it borrows heavily from the left lexicon while combating Modi in national discourse.
Shorn of verbosity, Troika's political model rests on blind opposition to Modi-RSS, dynasty loyalty, select patronage networks, crony capitalism and viewing the country and the party as a personal fiefdom.
Why has India remained one nation and secular? Because of Hinduism - which in its myriad forms and traditions - is synonymous with pluralism, and glues the Indian diversity. India is democratic and plural, not because of the Constitution. It's the other way round. Without popular sanction and support, a constitution is not even worth the paper on which it's written.
In fact, on January 16, 1999 the Congress Working Committee underlined this fact through a unanimous resolution stating that "Hinduism is the most effective guarantor of secularism in India". At that time, Congress was at a cusp - Sonia Gandhi had just taken over the party after booting out octogenarian Sita Ram Kesari, the then Party President, in the most disgraceful manner.
Why India and Pakistan have contrasting values and character - though both are cut out from the same landmass and their citizens share a common racial stock? The predominant Hindu ethos wouldn't allow residual India to turn into another Pakistan - an Islamic nation marked by frequent army take-overs, internecine wars between various sects of Islam, systematic decimation of minorities to near extinction and gaining notoriety as a global factory of terror.
Residual India can never become a Hindu version of Pakistan. Those expressing such apprehensions are proverbial Don-Quixote's, trying to hit imaginary wind-mills - they do so out of mischief - in order to justify Islamic extremism and run down India.
Congress, in pursuit of minority votes and under the evil influence of left, has been attacking Hindu icons and beliefs which jodo (unite) India. Within less than a week of the start of the 'Yatra', Congress shared a social media post featuring a pair of burning khaki shorts. The khaki shorts were a part of RSS uniform and have since been replaced by trousers.
The controversial tweet's crude format, exacerbated by a visual reeking of hate and violence, was in no way Gandhian in character. The disgusting image - showcases a typical divisive left mindset, saturated with bigotry and prejudice - which the Yatra claims to fight against.
The tweet is not an inadvertent act. It's part of a suicidal ideological path Congress has followed under the mother- son leadership over the last two decades. To dilute the impact of terror inflicted on the country in the name of Islam, P Chidambaram, the then Home Minister, and Congress party, raised the bogey of Hindu Terror' - a phenomenon that simply doesn't exist.
Following 26/11 in 2008, Pakistan sponsored attack on Mumbai, the then Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had released a book "26/11 RSS Ki Saazish?" (26/11, An RSS Conspiracy?). It was clearly an attempt to mislead the investigating agencies, further strengthen the myth of 'saffron terror', weaken elements that cement national ties and an insidious move to help the real culprits of the mayhem escape the law.
On February 9, 2016, some students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) held a protest against the capital punishment meted out to the 2001 Parliament terrorist attack convict Afzal Guru, and Kashmiri separatist Maqbool Bhat. Some protestors were heard shouting "Bharat tere tukde honge". Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, along with some other students, were arrested under charges of sedition.
Instead of condemning such anti-national slogans, Rahul said, "Most anti-national are people, who are suppressing the voice of students in JNU...." Now Digvijay Singh and Kanhaiya Kumar are the leading lights of the Yatra!
Because of these glaring contradictions, Congress is imploding, from place to place - haemorrhaging fast. Even while the Yatra is on, the Congress is nearly dead in Goa. Forget the Country, Rahul can't hold his party together. He can't inspire because he doesn't have anything new to tell or sell. He keeps mumbling worn out banality of the Communist era, that neither attracts fresh support nor holds back those deserting.
Politics requires leaders to implore masses for support by their vision and conduct. A leader has to identify problems and come out with new ideas to fix them, and sell the package to masses. One needs inherent talent, hardwork and communication skills to do so.
Rahul has given no evidence that he has these qualities. He occupies the top position in Congress, because of an accident of birth, and it shows in his working style. His sense of entitlement and imperious ways trigger fear and shrink spaces for candid discussion within the party.
The Congress' present odyssey is in fact a relaunch of Rahul. Will it work? Rahul may succeed in keeping the party as a family enterprise. But the exercise wouldn't help to arrest Congress downslide. Rahul and dynasty are the problem - they can't be a part of solution. It's a Yatra - from nowhere, to nowhere.
(Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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