Will Rahul Gandhi’s march revive Congress?
The march is just the beginning for Rahul who will need to put in a lot of work to turn the fortunes of the party
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the closing ceremony of Bharat Jodo Yatra in Srinagar. — PTI
By Simran Sodhi
Published: Mon 30 Jan 2023, 11:50 PM
For the Congress, a party that is fighting a battle for its revival and relevance, the Bharat Jodo Yatra (a march across the country) has been good news overall. The march that began nearly five months ago concluded on Monday in Srinagar. Rahul Gandhi, in a white tee shirt and a beard, has been leading this march and has been trying to present a picture of himself as a serious politician and leader.
Often, in the past, his Pappu (frivolous) image has hurt him and the party, but his press interactions on the trip and his outreach to people have helped rebuild his standing among public. But the big question is whether he can take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who remains hugely popular among the masses.
The problem with Rahul for many years has been a perception among the people. Reluctance and immaturity have followed him. He has been reluctant to seriously take up his role as leader of the party and be a full-time politician. People often wondered if his mother (Sonia Gandhi) or sister (Priyanka Vadra) were the real politicians in the family. The yatra has made it clear that he is willing to fight and take the long road. Rahul seems ready and willing to finally accept his political destiny.
However, the revival of the Congress party will take more than one long march. And to turn the party into an organization that can be an electoral force to reckon with is a mammoth task. Increasingly, over the last couple of years, with the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) growing in strength, the Congress has shrunk to the point where its role as a national opposition party is in doubt. Regional parties have emerged stronger during this period and the Congress finds itself struggling to regain the momentum.
The criticism often directed at the party, even by its own members, is that it is too hierarchical and the Gandhi family still holds sway. This also helps explain recent desertions by many top leaders to the BJP and other parties. The party now has scant talent which represents the youth of the nation. The BJP is also the richest political party in the country today and the largest political party in the world with a membership of more than 180 million. That simply makes the task harder for the Congress party. Its appeal to the youth of the country today is low and while Rahul’s image has improved post the yatra, when it comes to the choice of a national leader Modi appears larger than life.
The yatra then is a good starting point, for both the leader and the party. This is just the beginning for Rahul who will need to put in a lot of work to turn the fortunes of the party. For democracy, it is always good to have an a number of players in the field, but the country also looks upon its leaders to deliver.
Modi and his party fight every election down to the last booth and the cadre puts in real-time hard work detailing both the math and the strategy. The Congress has so far shown no skills either in training a large cadre or formulating a strategy to counter the BJP.
Next year will see national elections. While the Congress is not expected to win the big elections next year, a decent showing in state polls this year would be an indication of how much Rahul’s yatra has achieved.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi