Bharat Jodo Yatra is over, where does Rahul Gandhi go from here | India News

NEW DELHI: “Bharat Jodo Yatra is the most beautiful and deep experience of my life. This is not the end, it’s the first step, a beginning,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted on January 31, a day after the yatra ended in Srinagar. His party, and its supporters, would be hoping it is the start of an electoral re-emergence, a return to relevance at the national level and a realistic shot at dislodging the BJP.
The 3,570-km yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 7 and wound up in Srinagar on January 30, generated lots of feelgood moments and photo-ops and stayed away from overtly political themes but the real test starts now. A yatra organised by a political party cannot truly be apolitical and if it doesn’t yield tangible results, it will be forgotten as the aggrandising folly of a reluctant leader. Rahul has emerged out of the yatra with his image enhanced — the BJP’s barbs won’t stick quite so easily any more — but politics is unforgiving, the mood will last only till the Lok Sabha polls next year. Another poor show and there will be no comebacks.

The immediate tests
First up are the state elections this year. The Congress may be out of the reckoning in the initial round of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura this month but a good show in the mid-year Karnataka polls is a must. With the BJP not in the best of health in the state and its lacklustre governance record provides the Congress with a good opportunity to turn the tables and get some much-needed wind in its sails. Rahul will have to step up here. The yatra spent considerable time in Karnataka and this will provide the first evidence if it was effective in shoring up support for the party. In a way, Karnataka being the first serious battle with the BJP after the yatra is encouraging for the Congress. It is one of the states where it still has widespread support and popular leaders. The party president hailing from the state should also count for something.
The real challenges
Come year-end and three big states will go to the polls. Congress is in power in two and was in office in the third before the BJP toppled it. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh offer different challenges. Losing office in Bhopal would still rankle but the party organisation is intact and a spirited fight can be expected. Chhattisgarh seems the most likely to be retained provided the differences between party seniors are sorted out in time. Rajasthan is the one that will give the party headaches with Sachin Pilot in no mood to withdraw his claim to the chief minister’s post and Ashok Gehlot equally adamant on staying put. How that issue plays out will determine Congress’s prospects in the state and will be a test of Rahul’s leadership.


From Raghuram Rajan to Riya Sen, top personalities grace Bharat Jodo Yatra

Show Captions

<p>The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, is passing through Rajasthan. The yatra completes 100 days on Friday.</p>

The Rahul question
Congress has elected a new president in Mallikarjun Kharge but Rahul remains the undisputed leader of the party. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has given a shine to his image and it feels like he has finally earned his stripes. He will continue to take all major decisions and will be the party’s main vote catcher. Win or lose, the Congress’s electoral performance will be credited to him. With the yatra, he has proven that he can stick to a party programme for five months at a stretch, a surprise for his detractors who dismissed him as a part-time politician who needed to frequently recharge himself with foreign jaunts. However, leading a yatra with lofty and idealistic aims and steering a party to poll wins with clear-headed strategies and targeted messaging are two entirely different things. Rahul may have done well with the first but his record with the second is anything but encouraging. If the Congress fails to win Karnataka and put up a respectable show in the three states going to polls later this year, the fight for 2024 could be over before it even begins. Rahul could find himself in the same place he was before the yatra.

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