Energetic Rahul Gandhi, lethargic Congressmen

Bharat Jodo Rahul Gandhi Opposition Unity

The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra was to conclude in Mumbai, so I decided to check with it, see it, experience it and hear the leaders live at Shivaji Park, Dadar. Much has been said about the Yatra and the People who walked alongside Rahul Gandhi. Videos and Images fill social media, often by the ruling party supporters criticising and making fun of their beloved Pappu. A couple of my good friends also had the opportunity to walk along Rahul in phase 1 and have shared their views and feedback with me. As the Election Commission had rung the bell, I thought to get some first-hand information about it and see what it offered.

Mumbai should have been filled with banners, cut-outs and hoardings but there was a lot of vacant space. Only the road (Lal Bhadur Shashtri Marg) which Rahul’s convoy passed was filled with such cutouts and banners. The schedule of his journey was unknown to most Mumbaikar’s. This could be security reasons but yet should have been made known to ordinary people mainly for two reasons. One the supporters could get a glimpse of him and the yatra, two the commuters could find an alternative route to their desired destination or plan accordingly avoiding traffic snarls in a city which is already crawling due to delayed metro construction work.

The celebrated venue is famous and sought for political rallies. This venue also transforms itself into a Bhim Festival during 5-6 December every year. As a regular visitor to the venue, I found the arrangements made by the party and the security forces quite pleasant. The Mumbai Congress party workers could have made some more arrangements (Snacks like wadapav) for people from far away.

What was unique was everyone had a ID card which had a designation, a small leader in their own citadel, a VIP or a VVIP and some as delegates. An ordinary congress party member seemed missing or was not transported to the venue. Did it mean that there are very few congress party members without a designation, just the foot soldiers I mean, raises a grave question on the organisational strength of the Indian National Congress. The so called citadel leaders need to expand their base on their own and not rely on Delhi to help them always, something they can surely learn from their new alliance partner the Shiv Sena (UTB). Mumbai has Shiv Sainiks but not ordinary congressmen/women.

The songs by Vishal Bharadwaj and Rekha Bharadwaj were too slow and were unable to infuse energy into the audience. While it could be a conscious decision to relax the crowd, but then the crowd demanded patriotic songs, the team conveyed that these bollywood romantic songs are about “Mohabbat” and you can imagine the country as beloved. This is not what the people wanted, Gyan. They wanted some direct injection of energy through the songs. Slow romantic tracks vs high energy patriotic songs, the choice was not difficult to make considering the importance of the event.

The Trinamool Congress was missing. Arvind Kejriwal and Akhilesh Yadav had sent their ambassadors, and so did the left bridge, this gives mixed signals to an audience seeking solutions and not wanting to listen to your internal conflicts. I do agree that this was not an Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) event, but the EC announcement of the election dates should have fast-tracked this event into an INDIA event.

It is vital to mention that Tejaswi Yadav connected to the nerves of the entire audience. This Bihari connected with the Marathi Manoos with ease, through his tone, content, and relatable references. His Jai Maharashtra at the end was icing on the cake. The Tamil brothers choose to speak in English, which is understood, but reading out from a paper was not what the audience expected. The soul was lost. The youth today understands English and wants a leader to speak directly and not read out from a paper. Hemant Soren’s wife had no role and seemed an imposed speaker. Jharkhand CM, Champai Soren, had already spoken and thus presented the party lines. She was supposed to read out a message from Hemant but ended up expressing her own thoughts. Prakash Ambedkar did speak but gave a lot of mixed signals regarding his parties inclusion in the alliance. Neither the platform nor the timing was appropriate to express seat-sharing grudges when the EC has already announced the dates.

The stage had 400+ people, standing and sitting, something which will never happen on Rahul’s opponent’s stage. I was surprised to see some old congress leaders, who held ministerial posts in the past, but have been inactive since long, sitting on the dais. It’s time for youth leaders to take the front seat, while the oldies should enter margdarshak mandal.

During the Bharat Jodo Yatra (Phase 1) Rahul Gandhi walked 4080 kms, from south to north. The famous Dandi Yatra under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, was just 387kms, less than 10% of what Rahul walked. Many must have seen Mahatma Gandhi sculptured in the Dandi Yatra, images of the Yatra, and or read about it. Compare it with Bharat Jodo, the Dandi march seems a cakewalk. The magnitude of planning, and participation by common people, the volunteers and media management must surely be saluted.

It seems the ordinary congress party worker has gone on the backfoot, and has outsourced everything to Rahul Gandhi now. Either the worker wants a designation or they will not be part of it wholeheartedly. This is apt considering the switchover leaders do, especially joining the ideologically opposite camp. While the worker toils for a leader, MP or MLA, who post-election switches over to a rival party. The worker is not just left leaderless, but also unsure of what happened, why happened, who is responsible and has dozens of unanswered questions. The entire labour of this party worker is highjacked and handover to rival party by a Leader. (read Dealer).

This situation arises due to First Past the Post System (FPTP). If India had a Proportional Representation system, this same worker would have ensured and worked twice as hard to make the Indian National Congress win. Their attitude and approach seem in favour of List PR, where Rahul Gandhi is at the apex and members of the list can’t change parties.

In FPTP, we vote for a candidate and not for the party. Most congress workers are working in the interest of the party and not the candidate, hence deflections demoralised them and it’s been a decade of such instances. Regional and small party leaders have their own workers, who migrate with them to any camp that welcomes, even their rival.

The oratory skills of Rahul needs to be fine-tuned and polished a little. While people are eager to listen, they also need to connect and understand in a simple language with everyday jargon. Going philosophical with ‘Shakti’ was uncalled. While his intent is clear, his words confuse. He surely needs to slow the speed of speech, think and then talk. Most could not relate to it. His speech also ended impromptu, when anyone least expected.

The Elections are announced. Workers will toil, leaders will campaign, and surveys are not to be trusted. Ambedkar’s comment that “Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic” makes me think deeper when I see some 20-year-old making reel on election who confuses Elections with Democracy.

Rahul Gandhi has done his job. He seems to be the only politician in the world who has walked 4000 kms and later travelled 6700 kms, meeting people from every walk of life. The workers need to expand it out, reach the voters and figure their way out. Else, Operation Lotus is scheduled for June 2024.

Vivek Sakpal is the publisher of https://peoplesbookshop.com/

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