Bharath Jodo Yatra proffers new political optimism

Bharat Jodo Yatra lankesh

When Rahul Gandhi walked side-by-side with Late Gauri Lankesh’s mother, Indira and her sister, in BJP-ruled Karnataka during the Bharath Jodo Yatra, he demonstrated his will to take on the fundamentalists who killed Gauri Lankesh and several others in what was a dim period in Indian history. Rahul Gandhi’s tweet said: “Gauri stood for Truth. Gauri stood for Courage. Gauri stood for Freedom. I stand for Gauri Lankesh and countless others like her, who represent the true spirit of India. Bharat Jodo Yatra is their voice. It can never be silenced.” Not just Indira, but multitudes of common folk across generations voluntarily accompanied Rahul Gandhi whose character shone out as a true leader- inclusive and approachable while discarding artificially constructed identities. He held their hands as they walked together and shared those inclusive values which alone can create a viable nation. It was in stark contrast to many leaders who fear the people and ask to be guarded by intimidating security men.

This makes an instructive contrast for us living in Goa where the CM and so-called dignitaries are instantly recognized by an accompanying security apparatus who take ownership of the roads when a supposed VIP arrives and consign the common people to secondary status. Not with Rahul Gandhi who dismissed pretentiousness and self-importance.

The profound message of dissent to oppression that Rahul Gandhi tweeted was when the Yatra was barely 30 days old. Waves of people from all generations have since joined the yatra in measureless numbers. The point is clear. A divided India which the BJP has pressed on the nation is under scrutiny and strain. The Yatra did not always have random Congress flags being waved. There was a sea of determined and hopeful people, calm and deliberate in oneness asserting unity and lack of fear. It takes courage and conviction to do what Rahul Gandhi is doing. He has lived through those traumas when his grandmother was assassinated by her own security guards and his father was killed by angry Sri Lankan Tamils. Yet, he has dared this open yatra. If courage, openness, humility, and accessibility are virtues that must define a politician, then Rahul Gandhi possesses each of them in good measure.

The Yatra has several unequivocal politically inter-connected messages. It says NO to the politics of hate and divisions. It queries the politics of political centralization and challenges fear, bigotry and hate which is the sad commentary of Indian politics today. It challenges the economic paradigms of the day replete, as they are, with economic chaos, caste-class divides, and with remote chances of advancement for those who are drawn from backward castes and classes. The Yatra exposes steep unemployment and escalating poverty.

Goa’s political class will recognize how these gloomy facts apply in its own backyard. The BJP has sneered at the yatra. In BJPs brand of politics, it is unthinkable to go virtually unprotected into a mass, being kissed by openly admiring elderly women and children with genialness about their sincere affections. Rahul Gandhi has scripted a new political storyline with unsullied grace.

The yatra has awoken the consciousness of the masses to their existential crisis. The yatra has already propelled a new image of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Soon, the Congress will have a non-Gandhi as President. Rahul Gandhi will have made two important points through this yatra. First, you don’t have to be in power to influence politics. (JP taught us that lesson in 1974) Secondly it is not compulsory to weaponize politics through raucous jingles that promise the moon and don’t even reach the tree top.

The streets are not a political monolith as the BJP would have us believe. If 2019 gave them 33%+, 2024 will see a drastic drop unless an innovative make-believe political catastrophe is invented to get the BJP through. A recovery from failed economic policies, social divisions, and lack-luster leadership are too late to push through despite the persona of Modi on which the BJP solely relies. Even PM Modi cannot shirk off the failed promise of a 5- trillion dollar economy that is, instead, reportedly rapidly sliding into recession according to reliable estimates. Meanwhile, BJP dispensations in the States they rule are all drooping with non-performance.

Most corporate media houses are perplexed at the Yatra’s success. Instead of reporting news from the Yatra, they have chosen to be the ‘denial-media’ burying their heads like the ostrich in the sand. They have, in the past, assailed the Congress through valueless sloganeering, shrill screeches and claimed Target Rating points (TRPs) utilizing fabricated numerical substantiations. They have now been stunned into silence by the Yatra. It is not news that is in sync with their ‘news-buds’ and contradicts the stereo-types they painstakingly built since 2014.

That the Yatra won’t pass through Goa will be a big relief to the BJP and to the defectors who, like the sycophant media, would have had to perform the ostrich act. Plus, imagine if the masses were to turn up for the yatra; it would irreversibly prove the results of 2022 as probably tripped or mechanized!

The winds of political change are exceedingly perceptible. Eminent RSS cadres are calling for a new social-political consciousness that abandons fascist rhetoric. Criticisms of the systems that consent to caste-class divides are also being vigorously prompted. The rich-poor divide is being exposed as repulsive and needing systemic change by the same quarters. Bit late though!

Chances of a formidable opposition alliance are a more-than distinct possibility although it is not lucid what form the formation will take.

So there we have it – a Congress Yatra transformed into a potentially political peril for the ruling dispensation. The BJP optimists wear brave political attire, but know deep inside that their failures of 2014 and 2019 till date leave them either staring at defeat or a skin-deep victory at best.

Ranjan Solomon is a human rights activist, political commentator who believes that peoples’ power is a non-negotiable instrument to further democracy and justice.

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