The Congress on Wednesday began its massive “Bharat Jodo Yatra”—a pan-India padayatra that will encompass as many as 12 states over 150 days—with an eye toward the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In almost five months, the 3,570 km-long journeys will pass through 12 states and two Union Territories.
The party has referred to the march as its largest mass-contact effort since Independence and a “turning point” in India’s political history ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi’s party oozes with meaning, reminding readers of texts about Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha Movement.
Congress has said that the march is designed to confront the “environment of hate” that is present in the country, in addition to bringing attention to concerns like rising unemployment, rising costs, and political centralization.
The party that has governed India for the majority of the time since Independence in 1947—most recently for 10 years between 2004 and 2014—is currently fighting for its life and is hoping the protest march across the nation will be a good start in addressing the concerns raised about it and in slowing down its accelerated political decline since that year.
Wishing For A Comeback
The yatra coincides with the Congress party’s most challenging period in Indian politics. The party is currently only in control of two states (Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh) on its alone, and it occupies third or fourth place in nearly every state with a regional player.
The BJP and its allies currently hold power in the following states and UTs: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, and Puducherry. The party is in second place in Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.
Infighting inside Congress has been a problem in various states, and top leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal have left, making the situation worse. Furthermore, several politicians have questioned the party’s organizational approach as a result of the party’s poor performance, with the G23 leaders regularly challenging the leadership over Congress’s organizational structure.
Therefore, it won’t be far-fetched to assume that the yatra is Congress’s last-ditch effort to infuse vitality among its discouraged cadre base, activate its state units, and reignite hopes that it can be a powerful force in subsequent elections.
Shashi Tharoor, a senior politician, has expressed the hope that the Bharat Jodo Yatra will also become a Congress Jodo Yatra, highlighting the necessity of a massive campaign that will bring the party together.
Congress Is Certain It Will Succeed
Success in politics is not certain, but the Congress is hopeful that its effort to re-connect with the grassroots will energize its cadre and reinvigorate the party in time for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Before the yatra, Congress asserted that its employees throughout India were “enthusiastic and excited” about the event. Some people think of the yatra as a “political masterstroke.”
According to the general secretary of the Congress, Jairam Ramesh, “a new era in Indian politics has dawned, ushering in a fresh start.” Significantly, the yatra will pass through six BJP-ruled states, including Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, both of which are up for election. In all three states, Congress and the BJP are essentially engaged in a direct conflict. After the impending elections in Rajasthan, Congress wants to maintain its hold on the state.