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Snow falls, Rahul rises, Yatra ends, but with no major hope for 2024: Dr Chandra

How successful do you think Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has been and secondly, what has been public’s mood and response to the Yatra?
Dr Jagdeesh Chandra: As far as Congress’ internal politics is concerned, the Yatra has been a super hit Rahul Gandhi show, which has completely restored and re-established his authority and power as the ‘number one man’ in the Grand old party, which is confined only to two States - Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and has only figure of 52 in house of 543. Despite the success of the Yatra, the Congress party has failed to establish Rahul as the mass leader of the Opposition parties. And as far as BJP and other regional parties are concerned, this Yatra was only a point of concern, a point of caution, and nothing less or more. There was no collateral damage. That is what the reality is. The reason for this is that in front of Narendra Modi, everyone is too small and the Yatra was taken out a bit too late. So, we can say that the Yatra was good and successful, but in front of Modi, it is not towering. And if someone was to ask me to sum it up in one line, I would say ‘Snow falls, Rahul rises, Yatra ends, but with no major hope for 2024’.

Who do you think gave this idea to Rahul to take out the Yatra and do you think it was a re- branding exercise for the Gandhi Scion?
Of course. See, I have seen for several years now that Rahul loves to read books. He travels a lot and thus, he takes idea from books, and he got this idea through books that any where in the world, when the party has to be brought back to its feet, it has to go back to the masses and for that, one has to get to the road. And then he must have seen Indira Gandhi, who came to the roads to come back to power. Basically, he is influenced by the ‘Dandi March’ and has seen many marches. Moreover, Rahul’s idea was endorsed by Sonia in the party’s Chintan Shivir in Udaipur and she said that the party will take out a Yatra. So, when it was decided that a ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ would be taken out, Rahul gave the responsibility to Digvijaya Singh, because he himself has taken out a Yatra for Narmada River that spanned over 3,300 kilometres across 191 days. Therefore, Rahul gave him the responsibility to make the Yatra a reality and then there were other leaders too like KC Venugopal and others. So, basic idea for the Yatra was Rahul’s thinking and the party’s mandate.

It is believed that such Yatras are a way to come back to power in independent India. How do you visualise this Yatra in that background? Also, is it true that Rahul Gandhi had thought of leaving the Yatra only a few days after it was started?
See, it was Chandrashekhar, who later became Prime Minister, he undertook the longest Yatra of 4200 kilometres and walked for about 190 days. After that LK Advani’s Rath Yatra happened, post which, Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi undertook a Yatra for 46 days from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, which is still discussed across the nation. And after these, there were a couple major Yatras too like BJP’s Golden Jubilee celebration of Independence wherein, people walked 15,000 kilometres. The leaders in the South like Jaganmohan Reddy and several from Andhra like Chandrababu Naidu have taken out Yatras. So the history of Yatras is quite old. Chandrashekhar has undertaken a Yatra longer than Rahul’s, but this Yatra had a certain media hype, and hence, we are discussing it today. Secondly, you said that he thought of leaving the Yatra midway. I have heard that soon after its start, Rahul did have second thoughts on the Yatra since he used to get tired everyday. Actually, he underwent a knee surgery sometime ago and walking on treadmill is different than walking on the road. He used to walk 6-7 kilometres everyday on treadmill and long back I had heard that he could run 40 kilometres. Thus, he must have thought walking 20 kilometres a day won’t be much of a task. When he walked for 4-5- days, he found that it will be difficult for him and thought of quitting the Yatra. However, the next day he received a letter in Kerala asking him not to leave the Yatra and stressing that he wasn’t walking for his career, but for the people of the nation. So, he continued the Yatra. But yes, it did cross his mind at a point in time to leave the Yatra. As such, he is a moody person. Nearly a decade ago, he walked to Amarnath with a few leaders. In fact, someone told me that even in those make shift sleeping quarters, a treadmill had been installed for Rahul to run. So yes, he did have this thought of quitting the Yatra, but then the letter came and later, he has come across as the leader within the Congress.

What was the ideological concept and narrative of this Bharat JodoYatra?
The ideological concept of the Yatra was clearly defined. Firstly, it was undertaken to bring forth the ideological fight between two opposing parties before the public. Their ideology is of secular India and taking everyone along. Secondly, he attacked BJP and RSS that they indulge in politics based on religion, caste, language and other issues. So, they highlighted this ideology. Secondly, this was also a branding project. Third, was to highlight the economic situation of the nation and to know the people of the nation and he also picked up the political issues before the masses. Hence, basically the ideological issue was of BJP versus RSS and secondly, was to learn first hand about the problems of the common man.

Do you think this Yatra has enabled a ‘rebirth’ of Rahul Gandhi?
Of course, one can say that, at least for the time being. And in fact during the Yatra, it came into his mind also which is evident from his reply to a journalist wherein he said that Rahul Gandhi is dead, Take him out of your mind, he is not alive anymore, there is a new Rahul Gandhi. So, he himself is accepting that. But what exactly is this new Rahul Gandhi, only time will tell us. Will it be the same indecisive and inaccessible Rahul Gandhi, or will it be a decisive, accessible and a serious thinker Rahul Gandhi.

But perhaps an even more important question with regards to this Yatra is how satisfied is Rahul Gandhi with this Yatra? Also, when will the second phase of the Yatra start?
He is extremely satisfied with the Yatra. It appeared from his address in Srinagar that he is patting himself on the back that he has done a good work. And even the people’s response to the Yatra was stupendous. So, overall he seems satisfied with the Yatra, but then again, it has been three days since the Yatra ended and now he has gone missing. It may be that he is recovering after undertaking the Yatra, but he should mark his presence or go out and meet someone or say something related to the nation. Secondly, it is being said that the second phase will be started from October 2. The route and the people involved etc basically the nitty- gritty of the second phase have not been decided as yet and will be decided in the days to come and it seems that the Yatra will commence soon.

The Yatra had covered 13 states. Which State, according to you, has given its most support to the Yatra?
Support was moderate in all states, everywhere 4-5,000 individuals joined the Yatra. It was different, it wasn’t like a mass movement. The Bharat Jodo Yatra received positive response in Kerala, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. Now, you asked where did the Yatra receive the best response, so obviously, where there are Congress governments, there resource mobilisation, resource management and man management is more. So in that context, Rajasthan was the best where 10 or 20,000 people would walk in the Yatra which even included Ashok Gehlot. Since a popular CM was walking with Rahul Gandhi, so the Yatra’s response was great. Interestingly, when the Yatra was being planned in New Delhi, Kamal Nath claimed that it will be his region where the best Yatra would be taken out since he is a good organiser, and the atmosphere in Madhya Pradesh is such that he feels that Congress is gaining its foothold in the State. Ashok Gehlot was also there when this discussion was being conducted so he said, ‘No, I accept this challenge, it will be Rajasthan’. So, Rajasthan leg of the Yatra was the biggest with much fanfare and support of the people. The Rajasthan leg was extremely successful and Rahul was internally happy with it, thus, we can conclude that it was Rajasthan which topped the Yatra in terms of popularity, resource mobilisation, organisational capacity and all these factors.

Rahul Gandhi’s address in Srinagar, on the culmination of the first phase of the Yatra, was discussed a lot.
In our culture, it is said that at times, Goddess Saraswati sits on one’s tongue (meaning what one says is powerful and sweet to listen to). That day this happened with Rahul and he said several emotional things which impressed the people. Basically, he raked the issue, in his terms of violence versus non-violence, which is hate versus peace and love. He said a few things before those 5-odd thousand people assembled there and though there could have been more people, but owing to snowfall not many came out of their houses. So, he said a few things like he has seen bloodshed from up-close and others have not seen it so they do not understand that maintaining peace and not hating anyone is important. He said that when he was in school, he was called by the Principal and he went to the Principal’s room and was informed that his grandmother Indira Gandhi had been shot and that he should go home. On the way home he picked Priyanka from her school and when he reached home he saw blood on his grandmother’s body. Second, he said that during his father Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, he received a phone call from his friend who told him about the incident and Rahul replied that he knew since he had already received a call. He said that he fears these late night calls and that since he is in Srinagar today and a soldier’s family gets a call that he has been martyred. So he, in an unclear manner, said that he wants to break away this bloodbath and bring peace. Through these statements, he won the hearts of people. But another thing that he said wrongly in his address was when he said that outsiders rule Kashmir and that Kashmiris have never ruled their own state. Who are these outsiders? After abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir is now fully included in India. If someone from other state is going there as tourist and spending money to develop tourism and infrastructure, so your comment means you want to stop them. So, sometimes what happens is that in one go, he makes responsible and irresponsible comments. However, overall, his address was good.

During the show #JCOnRahulYatra trended top All-India on Twitter

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