Prasanna Mishra

Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra that had commenced on September 7, 2022 from Kanya Kumari and ended at Srinagar on January 30, had good response from many. The organisers made liberal use of slogans and songs like Mile Kadam- Jude Vatan; Nafrat Chhodo-Bharat Jodo; Berozagari Ka Jaal Todo- Bharat Jodo.

While the Yatra was on, Indian National Congress elected a new President and the Party registered electoral success in Himachal Pradesh getting a popular mandate to form a Government in the state.

The Yatra covered 3570 kilometers passing through twelve states and two Union Territories. Main objective of the Yatra was to protest against the politics of "fear, bigotry and prejudice", the economics of livelihood destruction, increasing unemployment and growing inequality.

Farooq Abdullah who joined the Yatra noted similarity of the Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra with Adi Shankaracharya’s Digvijay Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

In the recent past, India had witnessed two other Yatras that were undertaken by political leaders. It was on January 6, 1983 that Janata Dal President, Chandra Shekhar undertook a marathon walk from Kanyakumari that covered 4260 kilometers and ended in NewDelhi on June 25, 1983 on the 8th Anniversary of the declaration of Emergency.

Chandra Shekhar had started with a small group of 30 walkers. The crowd swelled to thousands while he entered Delhi and at Rajghat nearly 15000 people joined him and paid respects to the Father of the Nation and Chandra Shekhar offered a pledge to the nation.

He later addressed a gathering of 40 000 people at the Ramlila Ground where he called the youths to return to village and fight specific problems like water scarcity, medical care , education and delayed justice. Chandra Shekhar’s Yatra, however was a personal odyssey.

Advantages of a mass contact were personal to him. He saw deprivation, children who had never been to school, girls below ten years and yet bearing their husbands' names tattooed on their bodies, nursing mothers and pregnant women in scanty clothes and in poor health and the intensity of the pain and agony of the poor.

"It made me think," said Chandra Shekhar, "where did we go wrong ? Why did we go wrong?" It, however, did not improve the fortune of the Party.

The second was the Ram Rath Yatra which was political and religious. It began in Somnath on 25 September 1990. It was organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu nationalist affiliates, and was led by the then-President of the BJP, L. K. Advani.  

On 23-24 October,  Advani was taken to preventive custody at Samastipur before the Yatra was to enter Uttar Pradesh.  Soon thereafter, Atal Bihari Vajpayee marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan and withdrew support to the VP Singh government that led to collapse of the 11-month-old National Front government. 

On 30 October a large number of activists pushed past the cordon of security officers, and moved towards the Babri Masjid. Although they were intercepted by more security forces, they succeeded in avoiding these, and reached the mosque. There, one volunteer placed a saffron flag on top of the mosque, while other activists attempted to pull the structure down. The security personnel responded by initially using tear gas to expel the kar sevaks, and later using live ammunition.

The kar sevaks were pushed away from the mosque, but a pitched battle with security followed, which lasted three days, and led to the death of 20 VHP volunteers. After these developments, fortunes of Bharatiya Janata Party took a different turn and the Party gained strength steadily.

The Party now is in excellent shape and its policies have made the country economically strong. Its Government has been most effective in handling cross-border terrorism and in strengthening defence of the country’s borders. 

The Indian National Congress which has been in power for years after Independence got a massive drubbing in the 2014 national elections winning just 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Thereafter it has been losing elections and its dominance in the political scene both at the Union and the States is on decline. It secured only 52 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Its vote share has been declining steadily.

The writ of the party high command has loosened over the years and ambitious leaders are openly challenging and taking pot shots at the Central leadership. An Elected Congress Government in Madhya Pradesh had to give way to a BJP Government on account of the Central leadership’s inability to manage dissent.

An ugly spectacle periodically surfaces in Rajasthan, where two warring factions keep damaging the Party. Just when several political analysts were busy writing the epitaph of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi embarked on the Bharat Jodo Yatra. 

Rahul Gandhi walking in a white T shirt in the freezing winters was in sharp contrast to mainstream politicians in designers’ clothing and this made an impact. The average citizen feels secure in the belief that there is a party which will espouse its cause.

The minorities feel safe; the unemployed hopes there would be economic activity which would provide him a source of livelihood.

The Yatra also makes an important political point. The Congress Party emerges as the obvious entity around which other parties have to converge if they have to stop the BJP juggernaut in the 2024 elections and the fight against BJP has to be led by the Congress Party and not an ad hoc hotchpotch of a few Regional Parties.

The real worry for Rahul Gandhi, however, is the disgruntled and senile leaders within the Congress Party. Their challenge was apparent when Digvijaya Singh wanted to derail the Yatra by raising the Balakot issue. He wanted proof that there was indeed a surgical strike.

It was a very reassuring to see immediate damage control by Rahul Gandhi distancing himself and the Party from such a statement. Rahul Gandhi however faces a challenge from such elements. Revival of the Congress Party would depend on how he handles such discredited politicians and how effectively leaders address the organisational weaknesses of the Party and take up public issues.

Rahul Gandhi and top leaders must steer clear of sensational rallying cries like CHOWKIDAR CHOR HE and concentrate on important issues like inflation, unemployment, rising inequality to gain traction.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at