By: M.R. Lalu
Seriously responding to its electoral decline and addressing a generational desperation that it began to suffer from its earth-shattering debacles since 2014, the foot march of the Congress leader across India seems to have gained a noticeable momentum. The party wishes to turn this long march into an event, evidently an enabler to shake away its lethargic premonitions. And true to its core, it needs a genuine revamp that has become a dire necessity which nobody in the party would stop to focus on while its Himachal victory came as a sigh of relief. It has no choice left but to prove its mettle and significance which otherwise would reduce into an irretrievably hallucinatory political disorder. The intention is genuine and the modus operandi seems to attract attention. But the semantics of nationalism framed by the opposite side appear to be delving deeper with a large number of India’s electorate kneeling for it with admiration and acceptance. The irresistible popularity of the Prime Minister is a haunting reality that most of his opposition tries to brush aside with a weird disdain. Though the outcome is unpredictable, the rejuvenation process the Congress thought to materialise through the foot march has a legitimate justification.
Another yatra which began on 25 September 1990 from Somnath was of equal significance for the BJP as the Bharat Jodo Yatra is for the Congress. Lal Krishna Advani’s Rath Yatra travelled three hundred kilometres a day with religious sentiments outpouring for a Ram temple in Ayodhya. From the Gandhian padyatra to Advani’s Rath yatra to the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi, all the yatras had the leaders standing up for a particular cause and communicating with the country’s populace on the ground. While Gandhi’s revolt was against colonialism, Advani advocated for a cultural renaissance and Rahul Gandhi stood against everything that Advani stood for. BJP’s plan was to revive its electoral significance by raising the bar of acknowledgement of its ideology among the Indian voters, especially the Hindus. The momentum that the aggressive yatra could create and the electoral prospects that the BJP could grab in the next elections were evidently a proof of acceptance for the emergence of a Hindu nationalist sentiment. The subsequent elections took the country through a fractured mandate and a new regime of coalition politics became normal. Igniting its electoral rejuvenation, the BJP could maintain the thrust of its ideology all into the days of the Modi upsurge and the party’s unprecedented electoral success in 2014 has become a milestone that its historians would profoundly narrate with elegant vocabulary.
Repercussions of the Rath Yatra remained for decades and the saffron emergence in Indian politics was not only weakening the Congress alone but the right-wing narratives which were amorphous once, turned out to be potentially capable of bringing stormy paradigm shifts in politics in the Indian subcontinent. A large part of the country preferred to reject the political untouchability that the BJP suffered and went ahead with a seemingly quixotic ideological mission that the party put forth and that was the real turning point that the Indian political scenario witnessed almost aghast and with inexorable perplexity. To chase and defeat the nationalistic surge that the BJP under Modi began to systematically push the country into, became a herculean task for the deeply divided opposition. Desperation mounting to an alarming level is manifest when the political opposition in India fails to stand with the government while the Chinese aggression sneaks across the country’s borders.
Delinquency by the elected representatives in the parliament and outside on the Chinese aggression helps the internal rift to break open and China for all reasons would have the last laugh when it keeps its giant neighbour India on the edge. Unable to seek consensus on issues of national security, the democratic credentials of the largest democracy exposes its hypocritical intonation on patriotism. But disregarding the opposition parties’ sentiments the ruling class would further fail to justify their stand. While an ideological mask is what the foot march headed by Rahul Gandhi would conceal his real intentions with, the expected political implication is the revamp of his party. His emergence as an aggressively capable contender to Modi before 2024 is a hidden adage that the family and the party cadre must be chanting all through. But his making unsubstantiated remarks on the border face-off with China would ultimately give the BJP the stick that it can flog the Congress throughout the coming elections. Irrespective of political differences the parties in the country should have come along the government sending stringent messages for the dragon. India’s political elite often fails to dismantle its blaming- and- shaming of the country for trifling dividends.
The celebrated objective of the Bharat Jodo Yatra is to symbolically unite the genuine emotion of Indianness beyond the boundaries of religion, region and the politics of hatred. At least for someone who believes its narratives, the Congress is trying to say that the BJP’s rule in the country since 2014 has destroyed India’s essential oneness. Maybe this is a sheer desperation that the Congress has been forced to come up with. The question pops up with certain relevance is that would Rahul Gandhi’s yatra emerge as a platform for a grand alliance before India’s 2024 elections. Trying to reinvent its leader’s image by bypassing the media, the Congress’ plan to hit the streets could have become a decent effort, but badmouthing the government and Narendra Modi on the Chinese aggression will be an unpopular move by the Congress and its Bharat Jodo campaign would expose its lack of clarity on national security. Certainly, the Congress appears to be desperately failing to demystify its nationalistic ethos.
Advani’s Rath Yatra specifically intended to bring political prospects to his party through aggressively campaigning on a spiritual subject. Sporadically shifting its dogmas time and again, the BJP has left its spiritualised revolution with victory coming its way in Ayodhya and its patriotic impulses in the Modi regime is undoubtedly capable of accelerating its political fortunes further. That is the reason why the ordinary citizens of India are still not ready to take the opposition parties seriously when it comes to their lamentations on the Narendra Modi government’s lethargy on the nation’s security. If Rahul Gandhi fails to read the patriotic impulses that unite the Indian populace, baseless accusations on the prime minister on his sincerity on India’s security would backfire the Congress once again as it did during the Balakot strike and his yatra would turn out to be a gimmick- a time-pass. (The author is a freelance journalist & has penned down the book, India @ 75-A Contemporary Approach. He can be reached at email@example.com)