Rahul’s yatra & alliance quagmire

By Vijay Darda | 08-01-2024.

Will Congress be able to muster enough support to defeat BJP through its yatra from Mizoram to Mumbai?

Hectic activities are going on in the Opposition camp in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections this year. Two of these activities are more significant than the others. The first one is Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which will commence on January 14 and conclude on March 20, covering 6,700 kilometres from Mizoram to Mumbai. The second activity is the fast emerging ideological differences within the INDIA grouping of the opposition parties! In such a situation, will Rahul’s yatra be able to muster enough support to take on Narendra Modi’s powerful BJP? The answer lies in the future but the analysis has already begun in the minds of voters.

There is no doubt that Rahul gained a new foothold during his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Immediately after his yatra, the Congress won Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana too — though the party lost power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. So now the second yatra, quite obviously, is aimed at appropriating gains in the Lok Sabha elections. Rahul Gandhi’s yatra will cover 15 states. There are 357 Lok Sabha seats in these states, with the BJP winning 239 of them in the 2019 general elections. Congress’ predicament can be gauged from the fact that it was victorious in only 14 of these 357 seats. Congress could not even open its account in the states like Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, covered during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It won only one seat each in Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It bagged three seats in Assam and only two seats each in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. Rahul Gandhi is aware too that Congress is no longer as powerful as it once was. It neither has resources nor cadre. Once Rahul told me during a conversation that he had no attachment to power and he was aware of his party’s strength. “If we start our work today, we will definitely reach our destination one day. If I think of eating ghee today and becoming strong immediately the next day, it is not possible,” he told me. In this background, I think he is in no hurry. He is building a base. BJP too has reached the two-third seats’ mark from two seats! Even though Rahul is in the field like a warrior, his opponents do not fail to say that the more challenges Rahul Gandhi throws, the stronger Narendra Modi’s BJP grows.

So, does the BJP want the Lok Sabha elections to be a Modi-Rahul contest rather than a BJP versus INDIA bloc fight? This is exactly what the BJP wants because if the INDIA bloc enters the fray unitedly as a unit, the contest will not be easy for the BJP. The problem with the INDIA bloc is that there is no readymade adhesive available to hold it together. The differences are so pronounced that differences appear more than agreement. Each one of them has his or her own justification. There has been no agreement on seat sharing within the INDIA bloc, but the JD(U) has already announced the name of Ruhi Tagung from Arunachal (West) seat. In fact, in the 2019 Assembly elections, the JD(U) had fielded 15 candidates in Arunachal and seven of them emerged victorious. However, all the seven MLAs later joined the BJP.

The JD(U) has announced not just its candidate in Arunachal Pradesh but also in Bihar where the party is projecting Devesh Chandra Thakur as its candidate from Sitamarhi and Sanjay Jha from Darbhanga. Nitish Kumar is thought to have done this to put pressure on the INDIA bloc. He is not saying anything publicly but everyone knows that he wants to be the convenor of INDIA, and if the alliance wins, he wants to see himself in the Prime Minister’s chair. Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee proposed the name of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge for the post of Prime Minister and the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal seconded it. Lalu Yadav does not want Nitish’s stature to rise. Lalu and Nitish are at loggerheads. They did not greet each other on New Year’s day. Moreover, it was Rabri Devi’s birthday on the first day of the New Year but Nitish did not even wish her on her birthday!

In West Bengal, there is a war-like situation between Congress and Trinamool. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has even stated that Trinamool is trying to please Narendra Modi to dodge the ED and the CBI. It is not serious about alliance. Trinamool even warned that the party may go it alone. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh has also started giving a go-ahead to its candidates. There is confusion everywhere. I feel that in spite of all the talk of strengthening the INDIA bloc, it is actually becoming weaker. As for the BJP, it stands to benefit from the Ram temple and the polarisation of Hindu votes. Therefore, INDIA bloc’s unity is as important as Rahul’s yatra if the Opposition really wants to take on the BJP. In the present situation, seizing power from Narendra Modi’s BJP seems to be nothing more than a daydream.

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