Rahul Gandhi’s new march: Will it rewrite India’s political destiny?

From Thoubal to Mumbai, Gandhi’s 6,200 km Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is a crusade for justice, writes Ashok Swain

The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is an important platform for Rahul Gandhi to resonate with the youth too (photo: @bharatjodo/X)
The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is an important platform for Rahul Gandhi to resonate with the youth too (photo: @bharatjodo/X)

Ashok Swain

Embarking on a journey that promises to stir the very soul of India, Rahul Gandhi, the pre-eminent leader of the Congress Party, has set forth on the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

This isn’t just another walk; it’s a crusade for justice, launched on 14 January 2024 from the historic grounds of Manipur’s Thoubal district and charting a path all the way to the bustling heart of Mumbai.

Covering a distance of 6,200 km over the span of two months, this yatra is a testament to the unyielding spirit of one of India’s most influential political figures. Just a year ago, Rahul Gandhi embarked on a remarkable journey spanning 4,080 km, stretching from Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India, to Kashmir. This time, his journey will traverse the country from east to west.

Significance for India’s polity 

This Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra undertaken by Rahul Gandhi marks a critical juncture in India’s political landscape. It is crucial to analyse the deeper implications of this initiative, looking beyond the immediate political gains, to understand its significance for India’s polity and its future.

The yatra, covering over 6,700 km across 15 states, is not merely a political march but a profound statement against the divisive forces undermining India’s social fabric.

In a country grappling with regional disparities and communal tension, this journey represents a resolute effort to knit together a fragmented nation. By traversing states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha, Gandhi’s endeavour is a clarion call for unity and justice — nyay in its truest sense.

Rahul Gandhi is also a politician. In the electoral context, the yatra holds significant weight. Uttar Pradesh, a key battleground with 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, is a focal point of this journey before India’s national elections.

The Congress party’s extensive engagement here signals a strategic shift, aiming to reclaim lost ground and resonate with the electorate’s aspirations and grievances. This direct interaction with diverse communities could potentially recalibrate political equations in the upcoming elections in less than four months.

However, the emphasis of the yatra on democracy, justice, and secularism is paramount in a country like India, where these values are foundational yet frequently challenged. The yatra’s alignment with these principles by the country’s oldest political party reaffirms a commitment to the Constitutional ethos, essential in a pluralistic society like India.

India’s democratic fabric

It serves as a reminder that India’s strength lies in its diversity and democratic spirit. This focus on democracy, justice, and secularism not only strengthens India’s democratic fabric but also promotes sustainable development and peace.

Rahul Gandhi’s importance in Indian politics stems from his family legacy, potential to connect with the youth, role as an opposition voice, advocacy for secularism and inclusivity, efforts to revitalise the Congress party, and his international outlook. His actions and the public’s response to his leadership continue to be influential factors in the evolving landscape of Indian politics.

Carrying the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi family, he symbolises more than just a political heritage. His leadership in the yatra represents a blend of historical significance and a fresh approach tailored to India’s youth.

In a nation where a significant demographic is under 35, Gandhi’s focus on issues such as employment, education, and digital empowerment is crucial. This yatra is an important platform for him to resonate with the youth, bridging the gap between legacy politics and contemporary concerns.

Gandhi’s role as the face of the opposition is critical in maintaining the vibrancy of India’s democracy. His direct challenges to the ruling BJP and its majoritarian politics and policies like demonetisation, GST reforms, and the Citizenship Amendment Bill exemplify the essence of a robust democratic process. In doing so, he represents an alternative narrative, crucial for a healthy political discourse.

In a landscape increasingly veering towards majoritarian tendencies, Gandhi’s advocacy for secularism and inclusivity is a beacon of hope for various minority communities. His leadership in the Congress party is pivotal in shaping a politics that is more accommodative of India’s diverse social fabric.

Dialogue and inclusivity

While the immediate focus might be on the electoral impact of the yatra, its significance transcends election cycles. It is a movement towards healing a polarised nation, a step towards undoing the politics of division and hate. This initiative could mark the beginning of a new era in Indian politics, where dialogue and inclusivity trump divisive rhetoric.

The yatra comes at a time when India is experiencing not just social and religious schisms but also widening economic disparities and a serious unemployment crisis. It serves as a response to these growing divides, offering a vision of an India that progresses as a united entity rather than a fragmented collection of conflicting interests.

The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is more than Rahul Gandhi’s political campaign; it is a symbol of resistance against the politics of division and a call for unity in a time of rampant polarisation. As India grapples with challenges to its secular fabric and democratic ethos, the yatra emerges as a crucial initiative, reiterating the importance of justice, inclusivity, and national unity.

Its success or failure in electoral terms will be a matter for the future to decide. However, the Yatra, like the previous one, has already succeeded in starting to shift the national discourse, reminding the Indian polity of its foundational values and the need for a politics that binds rather than divides.

As Gandhi marches on, the path he treads is symbolic of a journey towards a more cohesive, just, and inclusive India, a journey that is as significant for its symbolism as it is for its potential to reshape the nation’s political landscape.

The article was first published in Gulf News and has been republished with permission from Ashok Swain, an Indian-born Swedish academic and writer

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