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MP: Bharat Jodo Yatra to Enter on Nov 20; Congress to Focus on Uniting Party Ahead of Polls

Kashif Kakvi |
Eyeing tribal and dalits, Rahul Gandhi will visit Mahakal and Omkareshwar temples, a shrine, birthplace of BR Ambedkar and tribal icon Tantya Bhil during his 13-day visit.
Bharat Jodo Yatra

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Bhopal: After crossing six states with a message to unite India, Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra will enter the first Hindi heartland state Madhya Pradesh on November 20.

When the election is 11 months away, Madhya Pradesh Congress is manoeuvring this 13-day-long yatra to mobilise the party workers, harness the support of civil societies, community leaders and social groups by organising sub-yatras, group discussions, and small rallies keeping the brand Rahul Gandhi in the centre.

Apart from Rahul Gandhi's Yatra, Madhya Pradesh Congress is holding 17 different yatras across the state to revive, revitalise and reinvigorate the Congress party organisation and connect them with the masses ahead of the Assembly polls. All the sub-yatras will culminate in the main yatra in various places.

The party has also planned to use this yatra to rake up the burning issues like inflation, unemployment, corruption, communalism, 18 years of BJP's misrule, the divide between rich and poor and atrocities against tribals, dalits and Muslims.

Projecting Rahul Gandhi as the only alternative to protect sovereignty, the diversity of the country and the Constitution, the Congress is on a 3570-km padayatra from Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir against the hateful politics of the ruling dispensation.

The yatra launched on September 7, 2022, will enter MP's Burhanpur district on the night of November 20 after crossing the almost halfway mark.

After a day's rest in Sitapur (Burhanpur), Gandhi will fly to Gujarat to campaign for the party. The padayatra will resume on November 23.

Interestingly, the state Congress has appointed Surendra Singh, an independent MLA from Burhanpur, to oversee the management. "He is Congressman by heart," said state president Kamal Nath, Congress' State President.

Covering nearly 25 Assembly and four parliamentary seats in six districts, Rahul Gandhi will visit temples, including Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain and Omkareshwar in Khandwa, a shrine in Burhanpur, birthplaces of BR Ambedkar and tribal icon Tanya Bheel in Khandwa district's Pandhana tehsil.

According to the initial blueprint of the route, he may also take a dip in Narmada and Shipra rivers.

The party has also planned to hold two mega events in Ujjain and Indore to put a spotlight on the ongoing challenges of the country as well as Madhya Pradesh, a party leader said.

"With a message to unite India against hatred, Rahul Gandhi's Yatra has broken the spiral of silence and given a sense of support to the citizens," said Digvijay Singh, Chairperson of the Planning Committee of Bharat Jodo Yatra to NewsClick. "The Union government and BJP-ruled states are hunting down those who speak against the government, its leaders and their policies. Common citizens and journalists were framed in laughable complaints, and opposition parties were shown fear of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate."

When asked about the political significance of the yatra in poll-bound MP, Singh pointed out, "It's a fight of ideology. It's a fight against the followers of Mahatma Gandhi and his assassinator Nathuram Godse. It's a fight between the poor and the rich. It's a fight to uphold the Constitution and stand for its values. As far as Madhya Pradesh is concerned, we will highlight all the ill policies of BJP's 18-year misrule, which cast a shadow on the future of the state."

The Congress, however, was concerned about Rahul Gandhi's security after an incident of firing in the sub-Bharat Jodo Yatra in Gwalior. On the Night of November 8, a Yatra led by the leader of the opposition Govind Singh was entering Gwalior from Bhind when a man opened fire on the crowd. Many senior leaders, including Arun Yadav, Govind Singh and Jaivardhan Singh, raised concern over it.

The firing in Gwalior's Yatra happened three days after State Congress president Kamal Nath, who is overseeing the preparations for the yatra in the state, met with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on November 5. During the 20 minutes meeting, Nath urged cooperation on security, sanitation and electricity connection where yatra is staying.

Talking about the challenges ahead of the yatra, former union minister and senior Congress leader Arun Yadav told NewsClick, "After the Gwalior incident, the party is concerned over the security of Rahul Gandhi. We can't ignore the threat. But, we are on alert and sought support from the police."

Yadav, the coordination head of Yatra in Burhanpur, Khandwa and Khargone districts, further said, "We are expecting a crowd of nearly 1 lakh in yatra and catering to such a massive crowd is challenging. Besides, we need around two acres of land for the night halt of yatra; instead of asking for government land and arrangements, we are making our efforts by speaking with farmers, locals, private schools, Dharamshalas and others."

"To ensure that Rahul Gandhi hears the voices of the marginalised, needy, farmers and common men, we have planned various group discussions, one-to-one meetings and small rallies," he added.

Experts' View on the Yatra

Political experts and party leaders believe that the yatra is a resurrection of the brand of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party and will have lasting implications on Indian politics.

"The yatra will have larger implications on Indian politics and will effectively dent the BJP's orchestrated campaign to portray Rahul Gandhi as a non-serious politician in comparison to Prime Minister Narendra Modi," said former Union minister Aslam Sher Khan.

He further pointed out that the Congress is getting support from leaders like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who were critical of the Congress.

"Since the country is facing a threat over democracy and the Constitution is at stake, this requires you to set aside your prejudices and fight together to save the pluralism of this country, he pointed out.

"The yatra is a Congress push back against what he called politics of divisiveness and polarisation," he added.

Senior journalist and political expert Rasheed Kidwai pointed out that LK Advani's 1990 Rath Yatra established the BJP in the country. Digvijay Singh's Narmada Parikarma Yatra in 2017 helped Congress to topple 15 years of BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh in 2018. Similarly, the upcoming yatra will also impact the 2023 Assembly elections.

"Under the banner of the yatra, all the divided camps of the Congress are coming together and perceiving the party's hierarchy. Yatra will influence the silent and non-polarised voters as well. Besides, Congress is mobilising civil societies and community leaders who were critical of Congress and Rahul Gandhi before 2014. These groups helped BJP create momentum against the Congress," he said.

"The way BJP used social media and WhatsApp to influence voters, Congress is using this tool to spread the message of Bharat Jodo Yatra portraying Rahul Gandhi as replacement of PM Modi and reaching to the voters and leaving an impact on them. In political rallies in Himachal, PM Modi emphasised to the voters, "you are voting for me, don't worry about the MLAs or MPs." Likewise, Congress is presenting Rahul Gandhi as one person army."

Senior journalist and political analyst Girija Shankar argued that the nationwide foot march is not generating the expected response.

"The Bharat Jodo Yatra is not as focused as Mahatma Gandhiji's Dandi March or salt satyagraha which was against British imperialism and drew huge spontaneous support. Similarly, senior BJP leader LK Advani's rath yatra in 1990 focused on mass mobilisation to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. It attracted a huge response from people then," Shankar pointed out.

"The Congress yatra should have focused on specific issues like communalism and combating hatred. That would have paid rich dividends to the party and could have attracted a huge response from common citizens rather than just with an idea of uniting the country," said the senior journalist.

After 2014, when BJP rose to power, the political narrative in the country shifted from left of centre to right of centre, he pointed out.

Social scientist CD Naik believes that the yatra will be a catalyst in uniting people opposed to the BJP and its brand of politics.

"The Bharat Jodo Yatra will definitely unite those who are politically opposed to the ruling party. But at the same time, it will also re-group those opposing this yatra," noted Naik, a former professor at the Mhow-based Dr BR Ambedkar University of Social Sciences.

"Besides, it will unite at the psychological level deprived sections of the society because they feel neglected by the ruling dispensation, he said. These sections may not get any material benefit out of the yatra, but they will certainly feel closer to issues raised by it," Naik added.

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