Whether the state leaders can keep the momentum left by the Yatra will determine the party’s possibilities in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Bharat Jodo Yatra, FacebookPhoto : KPCC Facebook page
news Bharat Jodo Yatra Saturday, October 01, 2022 - 15:34

Porotta and pazhampori memes poking fun of Rahul Gandhi’s penchant to walk into bakeries were all over social media in Kerala during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. But the 19-day long Yatra in Kerala was nothing less than a booster drink for average Congress workers who found it invigorating at a time the party faced setbacks in Goa and a near-revolt in Rajasthan.

The Jodo Yatra also had a glue effect on the state leaders who put up a united face jostling for front-row visibility as they walked shoulder-to-shoulder on the state’s roads traversing a total of 450km and seven districts.

As the Yatra’s Kerala leg ended on September 29, Rahul Gandhi, who is an MP from Wayanad, took to Twitter to thank the people of the state with a note: "Home is where you get love and Kerala is home for me. No matter how much affection I give, I always get more in return from the people here. I am forever indebted. Thank you," he wrote. The Yatra, which began in Kanyakumari in Kerala turned out to be a crowd-puller but it remains to be seen whether it would translate to votes in 2024.

The walk was undoubtedly a morale booster for the party’s rank and file who flowed in to be part of it. The party’s state leadership ensured that factionalism did not get an upper hand when their spirits were high. Senior leader K Sudhakaran was re-elected as Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) when the Yatra, which entered Kerala on September 11, was in progress. The resolution proposed by Ramesh Chennithala was seconded by senior leaders VD Satheesan, MM Hassan, KC Joseph, Kodikkunnil Suresh and K Muraleedharan and the face of unity, which is rare in the party, was seen as the result the firm grip exerted by KC Venugopal.

There was also a conscious effort to avoid any discordant note while Rahul Gandhi was in the state. The preparation of the list of KPCC office bearers was also a smooth affair. The list was sent to the party high command before the Yatra entered the state.

Of the 20 Lok Sabha members from the state, 19 are from the Congress or its allies. This, however, was no consolation for the party in the 2021 Assembly elections asit failed to reverse the setback in 2016, when the Left Democratic Front (LDF) surged ahead. The poll debacle faced by the Congress was a deviation as Kerala was known for flipping power between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI(M)-led LDF.

The poll setbacks deeply impacted the morale of the Congress workers in the state. The exodus of party leaders from other states who mostly preferred BJP as their new stable also affected the party’s credibility. With the Bharat Jodo Yatra entering the state the party workers went into a mission mode to make it a grand success. The workers made house visits, collected funds and invited people to be part of the Yatra. This ground-level work was done earnestly and wholeheartedly, unlike during the elections when it went missing.

This new grassroot-level vigour has been attributed to the Rahul factor. The Gandhi family still has a huge appeal for the party supporters and this reflected on the ground, according to analysts. A similar energy during the campaign was witnessed in Wayanad during the Lok Sabha elections because of Rahul’s presence. Rahul Gandhi choosing a pada yatra, which offers a direct connect to people rather than a vehicle rally, where politicians wave at the crowds was also appreciated. 

Rahul’s speeches as part of the Yatra did not exhibit new political strategy and had a messaging that focused on bigotry. Hatred can win polls but cannot solve the country’s problems, was one of them. There were times the Yatra itself was hit by controversies. A local leader inadvertently put up a picture of VD Savarkar on a banner along with other freedom fighters and was suspended. This was in sharp contrast to the provocative dig the party had made on the RSS through an image of a burning khaki shorts soon after the Yatra kicked off. 

Whether the state leaders can keep the momentum left by the Yatra will determine the party’s prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the state. 


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