Lok Sabha Polls 2024: Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra isn’t a patch on its first version | 5 Points

  • Rahul Gandhi's second march, primarily a bus yatra accommodating daily marches, covered more distance in a shorter period than the first one which was mostly on foot. Yet, it could not repeat the success of its first version, at least the optics of it.

Gulam Jeelani
Updated17 Mar 2024, 02:37 PM IST
Supporters greet India's opposition Indian National Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, with arm outstretched, and his sister and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as they participate in Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Mumbai
Supporters greet India’s opposition Indian National Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, with arm outstretched, and his sister and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as they participate in Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Mumbai(AP)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi concluded his 63-day long Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Mumbai by paying tributes to Dr B R Ambedkar and reading the Preamble of the Constitution on March 16, the day the schedule for Lok Sabha polls 2024 was announced. 

Rahul's sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanied the Wayanad MP on the yatra's last day.

The opposition INDIA bloc is on Sunday holding a rally at Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park kicking off the campaign for upcoming general elections. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, among others, are scheduled to take part in the event.

Two yatras

The east to west Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is the second version of Rahul Gandhi's march that started on January 14 from Thoubal in Manipur and covered 6713 kms through 15 states before culminating in Mumbai on Saturday - four days before the scheduled end date, March 20.

The first version, called the Bharat Jodo Yatra , started on September 7, 2022 from the south in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, and concluded in the north in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, after covering 4080 kms, across 12 states.

The second march, primarily a bus yatra accommodating daily marches, covered more distance in a shorter period than the first march which was mostly on foot. Yet, it could not repeat the success of its first version, at least the optics of it. Here is why: 

Isolated by INDIA allies

The first march saw participation of many celebrities and political leaders walking a mile or two with Rahul Gandhi.

Personalities like actors Kamal Haasan, Pooja Bhatt, Amol Palekar, former Army chief Gen (Retd) Deepak Kapoor and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan participated in the yatra.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, PDP's Mehbooba Mufti, Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Sanjay Raut and NCP's Supriya Sule, walked alongside Rahul in the first version. Many analysts said the first yatra helped Rahul Gandhi improve upon his personal brand.

Also Read : Lok Sabha elections 2024 span 44 days, 2nd longest in Indian history; here's why

The second version, however, was a low-key affair. It saw a kind of isolated Rahul Gandhi, not only by celebrities, but his allies in the Opposition INDIA bloc.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar deserted INDIA bloc, and joined the National Democratic Alliance, in January, right when Rahul Gandhi's yatra was passing through his state, Bihar. The same month, in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal, Congress faced problems in getting permission for organising public meetings as part of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, according to party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. Around the same time INDIA bloc lost another ally from UP, the RLD led by Jayant Choudhary.

"Remember the images and visuals of the first yatra. The grand affair when it concluded whilw it snowed in Srinagar. It was certainly high on optics and confidence. In fact, I remember the yatra was being seen as the opposition's movement of standing up to the ruling BJP. Rahul Gandhi had kind of emerged as the leader who can unite other parties. But the second phase lacked the sheen that the first one had, It was badly organised," political analyst Rasheed Kidwai told LiveMint.

Ram Mandir 

Rahul Gandhi did not pass through Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the two states that went to polls during his yatra. Congress won Himachal Pradesh, though.

The Congress called the first yatra apolitical, yet many leaders credited it for the party's win in 2023 Karnataka assembly polls, held about four months after the first yatra ended.

But right before the second version of march in January, the Congress party faced drubbing in three Hindi heartland states losing the assembly polls to the BJP. The grand-old-party, however, wrested Telangana rom K Chandrashekar Rao's Bharat Rashtra Samithi.

Also Read : Lok Sabha Elections 2024: ‘7-phase voting plan to benefit BJP...’, slams Opposition

Last month, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during a TV channel's conclave that he, like many other leaders within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had wondered what was Rahul Gandhi trying to unite. "I am not sure why he needs to jodo (unite) India, when we know every part of India is firmly united," Singh said.

In fact, many within the Congress party questioned the timing of the yatra, days ahead of the Ram Mandir ‘Pran Pratishtha’.  Some of them were of the opinion that the Congress party should have accepted the invitation extended by Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Trust to attend the event on January 22.

"Ram Mandir event occupied all the media space. How could you expect any space for Rahul Gandhi's march, at least until the event in Ayodhya," said a Congress leader who did not want to be named.

Controversies galore

In the second version of his march, Rahul Gandhi sparked many rows. In February, addressing a gathering in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj, Rahul Gandhi alleged people who run the nation were kept away from the temple event but Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were in attendance at Ram Mandir event.

In Assam the yatra witnessed alleged clashes between police and the congress workers in January . Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said an FIR was registered against Rahul Gandhi and others for damaging public property during Nyay Yatra in Guwahati, the state capital. The yatra took a five-day break from February 26 to March 1 since the Congress leader headed to the United Kingdom to deliver lectures at the University of Cambridge

Not that the first version of the yatra had no controversies. In its early days in Tamil Nadu, the BJP attacked Rahul Gandhi for wearing a Burberry T-shirt allegedly worth 41,000 during the yatra. The Congress hit back with a “ 10 lakh suit” barb directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In Kerala, a photo of Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar appeared on a yatra campaign poster near Kochi.

Mystifying timing

Author and political analyst, Neerja Chowdhury thinks that through the two Yatras, Rahul Gandhi has gained a national profile, yet she calls the second version, particularly its timing, mystifying in the run up to Lok Sabha polls 2024.

"Rahul’s Yatra-2, many feel, could have been more about the INDIA alliance, and less about himself, signalling, as nothing else could have done, the coalition getting ready for the 2024 polls, moving in step from state to state. But the allies were not consulted, and they were made part of the journey only at the last moment, as in UP and later in Maharashtra. It was an opportunity lost," she wrote in the Indian Express.

Comparisons apart, the real impact of the both the yatras by Rahul Gandhi over the past two years can be judged by electoral results in the Lok Sabha polls beginning April 19. 

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First Published:17 Mar 2024, 02:37 PM IST
HomePoliticsNewsLok Sabha Polls 2024: Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra isn’t a patch on its first version | 5 Points

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