‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ to be a turning point

A pool of experienced leaders and growing belief ‘Party ko sarkar chalana aata hai’ is working in favour of Congress. A renewed commitment to minorities, tribals, Dalits, OBCs can bring back voters

‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ to be a turning point

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The three-day Chintan Shivir of the Congress in Udaipur has been criticised by the usual suspects. Some felt that the session failed to address why the party lost in Punjab and Uttarakhand. Others believed the session left the leadership issue unresolved. The party’s perceived silence on electoral debacles and desertions also came in for criticism.

While it is facile to assume that electoral debacles were not discussed, and preposterous to blame the party for not doing a public post-mortem (Haven’t the pundits in the media done that for the last 10 years?)—the question whether the session achieved anything substantial is a legitimate one. And the honest answer given by several Congress leaders is that the implementation of the Udaipur Declaration would signal the success or failure of the session.

The political affairs committee in all likelihood would have discussed why BJP continues to win despite mismanaging the economy and the pandemic and despite its disastrous policies. The hypnotic hold of Narendra Modi over people and the media despite his many gaffes would also have received some attention. The other question that would have been addressed is why a large section of voters do not yet see the Congress as an alternative to the BJP.

But misgivings apart, Udaipur signals a serious effort by the Congress to restructure the party and identify the issues. The Udaipur declaration is indeed long and verbose, laced with jargon, but it is still remarkable because of the ground it covered and the solutions it suggested. Critics often forget that a political party’s job is not limited to winning elections. It needs to raise the flag on public concerns and offer concrete solutions. To that end the session has been undoubtedly successful. This is also reflected in the optimism among party supporters.

‘’Congress is the only party in the opposition, which can contest on 350 Lok sabhaseats on its own”, points out Delhi based film maker Faraz Shere. He also makes the point that Congress is the only party which can present at least five capable leaders for each Union ministry. While the BJP has a mediocre talent pool and is struggling to get replacements for Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Anantha Kumar, Manohar Parrikar, Gopinath Munde and Kalyan Singh, Congress has no dearth of talented and experienced leaders. “Sarkar Chalana Aata Hai” is the party’s biggest selling point, he added.

“Though Muslim and Dalit voters have moved to other parties, so had the Congress’s commitment for them,” quips Shri Ram Maurya from UP. The party not only failed to communicate its good workin the past but its leaders often failed to stand by the communities in distress. The party’s unambiguous commitment to social justice and the minorities at Udaipur stood out, says Shibli Manzoor from Bihar. With a little effort, he believed, Muslims, OBCs and Dalits can return to the party.

Congress needs to seize the moment because minority voters are dejected and Dalit voters confused, he asserted. Regional parties have consistently failed them and the leaders have time and again surrendered to communal forces. The idea of Bharat Jodo Yatra therefore has the potential to become a turning point and electrify the country. It will carry the party’s message directly to the people and mobilise supporters. People need a new narrative. It’s time to execute the party’s vision. People want to know what Congress can do for them if voted to power. Everyone knows there is a crisis but are there solutions too?

The problem of the Congress is not with the Gandhis, they felt, who are clear about the party’s vision and values. They trust the Gandhis but not several of the leaders around them. If the party can galvanise these leaders and motivate them to reach out to the people, 2024 might not be such an uphill task as it might appear today, they asserted.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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