Bharat Jodo Yatra: Power In Politics Of Renunciation
Congress should extract advantage, without impeding Yatra’s momentum
There is a certain poetic power in politics of renunciation. As an immediate example just look at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden: how elegantly she stepped out of the Prime Minister’s office into something possibly more permanent like a life of love and family.
It is difficult to apply the Jacinda model on Rahul Gandhi for two reasons: there is no Prime Ministership to renounce and no one has yet spotted an interest in marital love in his eyes. And yet a renunciation of “conventional” politics becomes Rahul more than a simulated aspiration for an elusive Prime Ministership.
In fact he may have found his vocation in leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra which has softened the national mood. It would be problematic to invoke in this context the movement inaugurated by Jayaprakash Narayan in the mid 70s.
J.P. was in political retirement when global and internal interests coalesced to search for a power centre other than Indira Gandhi. Détente was going badly for the West. Portuguese decolonisation had brought communists directly into power in Angola, Mozambique and even Ethiopia.
Euro communism was bubbling over. Nearer home, Sri Lanka sought Indian military help to quell the JVP (left) revolt in 1971.
A fact less noticed in Indian journalism is that communists were already in power in Kerala in 1957 and crawling towards a three decade long rule in Bengal and Tripura since the late 60s.
Indira Gandhi had become dangerous for the West after she split the Congress in 1969 and clasped the hand of communists like S.A. Dange, Secretary General of the CPI. The Times' London correspondent Peter Hazlehurst hit the nail on the head: “Indira Gandhi is slightly left of self interest.”
The J.P. movement targeted Indira Gandhi as the centerpiece in the growing pattern of leftism. While the J.P. movement targeted the Left tendencies in the Congress, Bharat Jodo Yatra is creating an atmosphere in which the Congress can politically challenge the Right – the obscurantist, divisive core of Bharatiya Janata Party’s politics.
As far as economic policies are concerned, I doubt if much change has come in the thinking of the two major parties from the days of P. Chidambaram as Manmohan Singh’s Finance Minister. At a congregation of economists at the Nehru library, Chidambaram addressing his BJP counterpart, Arun Jetley seated in the front row said: “there is hardly any difference in our economic policies.” Whatever there is can be easily sandpapered.
The core Congress interests liaising with the Yatra probably had this in mind when they choreographed former Reserve Bank Governor, Raghuram Rajan seated by the roadside with Rahul even as the Yatra flowed by. Rajan spoke acceptable Hindi too for wider play. He has backers who have long insisted on some sort of second innings for him. I have seen Prannoy Roy of NDTV implore him in Davos: “Please, Sir, come back to India.”
Rahul’s Yatra is now in its final phase, dedicated to fly the National Flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has bitter memories of another flag hoisting in Srinagar by the then BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi in 1992, when militancy was at its peak in the valley.
Joshi’s Rath was stalled in Udhampur. Eventually he had to be flown to Srinagar for the flag hoisting. P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister was softer on the BJP then the BJP is likely to be on Rahul. Modi was an RSS volunteer accompanying Joshi. Will he concede a point to Rahul?
After completing the Kashmir leg of the Yatra, Rahul will come under inexorable pressure from those in the Yatra and those waiting in the tent with Congress President, Mallikarjun Kharge. In the run up to the 2024 General Elections, there are nine state elections which, by the narrative of Congressmen, will demand Rahul’s attention.
Recently, asked how the Yatra has affected him. Rahul gave an astonishing response. “I have killed Rahul Gandhi, he doesn’t exist anymore. The person you are looking at is not Rahul Gandhi – read Hindu scriptures – read about Lord Shiva, you will understand. Don’t be shocked. Rahul Gandhi is in your head, not mine. He is in the BJP’s head, not mine….” Is this not a dangerous transformation?