Bharat Jodo Yatra Enters UP, Experts Believe it Will Create Enthusiasm Among Congress Workers
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with Delhi Congress President Anil Chaudhary, UP Congress President Brijlal Khabri, party MP K.C. Venugopal and others during a ceremony to hand over the national flag to Khabri to start the UP leg of party's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', in Ghaziabad, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI
Lucknow: Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra, which began from Kanyakumari on September 7, 2022 under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, on Tuesday entered Uttar Pradesh after resuming its second leg of the journey from the national capital following a nine-day year-end break.
A large number of Congress supporters carried the tricolour in their hands as they reached the Loni border in Ghaziabad to join the foot march.
The padayatra (foot march) will cover a distance of 130 kilometres in three days in the state. The march will pass through 11 assembly constituencies of Ghaziabad, Baghpat and Shamli districts in the ‘Jat’ dominated western Uttar Pradesh.
Though Bharat Jodo Yatra will pass through three districts of West UP, the party has invited people from all over the state. Apart from party leaders and office bearers, many farmer leaders, social activists and scheme workers have been called. Congress has also invited leaders of major opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Representatives of regional parties were also asked to participate in the Yatra.
Response From key Opposition
For the last four decades, Congress has been on a steady decline in the state. The Grand Old Party is trying to create a scope for Opposition unity and show its strength in the state through the Yatra. However, it has received lukewarm responses from both the key opposition parties.
The SP and BSP have expressed their best wishes for the Yatra but decided to keep away from it.
On Monday, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav thanked Rahul Gandhi for inviting him to join the Yatra. In a letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi, Yadav said he hoped that the event would help the Congress achieve the aim of “safeguarding the inclusive secular credentials of the country” but maintained silence on wjether he would attend the Yatra at any point during its UP leg. “More than a geographical stretch, India is an expression of creative elements like love, non-violence, compassion, co-existence and amity. Hope this Yatra achieves its goal of preserving this inclusive culture of our country,” it said.
Recently, Akhilesh had attacked Congress saying that the SP’s ideology is different from the former. “Congress and BJP are the same,” he had said to the media on Thursday in Lucknow.
In a tweet, BSP national president Mayawati thanked Rahul Gandhi for inviting her to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra. However, she decided not to join the campaign. Last week, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid phoned Mayawati and invited her to take part in the Yatra.
BKU to Welcome Yatra
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), an influential farmers’ organisation in Western Uttar Pradesh led by Rakesh Tikait, will welcome the Bharat Jodo Yatra at Mavikala village in Baghpat when it enters the district on Wednesday. However, Tikait, whose participation in the event is yet to be confirmed, is scheduled to meet Rahul Gandhi in Haryana on January 9, where he will discuss the ongoing farmers’ issue.
Pratap Gujar, BKU district president in Baghpat, told NewsClick that leaders and workers from Baghpat, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli would turn up to welcome the Yatra at Mavikala village. A similar welcome would be given to the Yatra in the adjoining Shamli district on January 5.
“The BKU workers and leaders were asked to join the Yatra in large numbers as the Gandhi family has made sacrifices for the country and did a lot for farmers. Therefore, we need to support the Yatra,” Gujar told NewsClick.
NewsClick also spoke with multiple senior journalists based in Baghpat and Shamli to understand the message of Bharat Jodo Yatra in Western Uttar Pradesh. They said the Congress might have started its Yatra in Uttar Pradesh on an aggressive note and might have succeeded in creating an initial buzz, but the party will have to go the extra mile to bring back its days of glory.
“During the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, these two districts were affected most. The ruling BJP came to power both in Centre and state after the riots. The saffron party triggered riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli to divide society on religious lines. The Congress party chose Baghpat and Shamli to send a clear message of love and peace. There is excitement not only among leaders but common citizens are also joining Rahul Gandhi from Western UP,” journalist Pervez Tyagi said.
Nakul Singh Sawhney, a senior journalist and filmmaker based in Shamli, told NewsClick, “The Yatra will create enthusiasm among party workers but no such larger impact as there is no strong cadre structure of Congress in Uttar Pradesh. After the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, a lot happened, including farmers’ protests, which reduced the bitterness and distrust between the Jat and Muslim communities. But the Jat leader Jayant Chaudhary is not joining the Yatra due to his own commitments. Even Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati kept distances.”
The journalists believe that there is no such material issue in the state Congress will address. “Three districts of Western UP will be covered during Bharat Jodo Yatra and the party is not even
talking about their strategy for Eastern Uttar Pradesh, which is more unorganised in every sector in comparison with its western counterpart.
Further, Rahul Gandhi is walking, but there is a lack of communication with common citizens. This Yatra will help to build the image of Rahul Gandhi, who has been the target of a sustained social media onslaught by its political rivals and can increase the enthusiasm among the party workers, but it will not translate into votes. The reason is that the party does not have a voter base and they will not survive till they start working on caste-based politics in the state. Even small regional parties, including OP Rajbhar, have a voter base from their communities. However, Congress’ core base used to be Muslims, Brahmins and Dalits, who have now shifted to SP, BJP and BSP, respectively,” Rajeev Mishra, a political expert from Lucknow, told NewsClick.
In caste-driven politics, the Congress finds itself on the margins and is desperately hoping that its traditional support base of Brahmins and Muslims will return and help in reviving its electoral
fortunes through Bharat Jodo Yatra. Nonetheless, at the moment, this seems difficult, added Mishra.
“Both Rahul and Sonia have not visited their constituencies in recent times. The top leadership do not have core voters like BJP, SP and regional parties. They are not even working on it. In this situation, the foot march will have no such impact, but it will surely create morale among its workers,” Prabhu Singh, a senior journalist with a Hindi daily, said.
However, experts believe that the event has brought the Congress into discussion down to the village level.
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