Although Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has not attracted much public or media attention outside of the areas it is passing through, it has raised the spirits of party members. Leaders are flying in to walk a few miles, hoping that it would raise them in the High Command’s estimation. Gandhi is somewhat miffed that the yatra has not caused as much perturbation in the BJP as he would have wished. This is despite his having left no stone unturned that would raise the hackles of the saffron brigade. He has even ‘warned’ the BJP against attempting to prevent the yatra in any way, while his followers have tried to garner public sympathy by alleging that death threats have been made against him.
Having passed through the southern states, the Yatra hopes to come more into the limelight on entering the ‘Hindi heartland’. It would be interesting to see how the BJP responds, which has till now only focused on Rahul Gandhi’s contentious actions such as hobnobbing with a hardcore anti-Hindu evangelist, indulging in language politics directed at ‘imposition’ of Hindi, and even taking a dig at Veer Savarkar where it would be resented the most. How he carries this baggage into the north will be interesting to watch.
While small time BJP leaders have declared they would not allow the yatra into their areas, the party’s policy, thus far, has been far more effective – that of distant scorn, focusing solely on the numerous social media opportunities being offered to underline the ‘pappu’ element.
It is clear that Rahul Gandhi’s strategy is for the post-Modi period. This is why he is not too much interested in present day electoral contests that Congress is unlikely to win. His advisers wish to position him as the alternative to Modi that the opposition parties would be forced to accept as their leader. Going by the failed attempts by Mamata Banerjee, KCR and others to fill that slot, it is reasonable to make this assumption. The BJP would assist this strategy by giving Rahul Gandhi status as a significant player. It would do well to ensure that the yatra is given enough space to pass through peacefully and rein in its hotheads if they have other ideas. It has other far more important battles to fight.