Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra came to an end with the raising of the Tricolor at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, but it is difficult to determine how much political traction he earned by visiting 14 states over the course of five months.
Along the way, he gained a lot of attention, whether it was because of his white T-shirt and new beard, the fact that he walked more than 20 kilometres per day, the fact that he spoke with thousands of men, women, and children, the fact that he hugged and kissed many of them, the fact that he gave numerous interviews to the media, or the fact that he delivered his trademark fiery anti-BJP and “mohabbat ki dukan” speeches But at this time, the Congress party shrank shamefully in Gujarat, and its 18-vote victory margin in Himachal was too tight for comfort.
This yatra has been a great advertisement for Congress’s ability to organise events, both physically and virtually. Rahul’s reputation as compassionate and trustworthy thanks to the outreach. However, there is little indication that the gain in his “soft power” due to his popularity has translated into an increase in his “hard power” in the polls.
This will be put to the test in the nine state elections scheduled for this year, all of which precede the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The outcomes will show whether the yatra was a publicity stunt for the Gandhis or whether it actually sparked the long-awaited resurgence of Congress.
The party has an uphill battle in the newly formed state of Telangana, while also trying to maintain control of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh (the only states where it is in government outside of Himachal). All the citizen complaints that were heard sympathetically on the yatra must now be incorporated into effective electoral strategies.
The ‘directionless’ label BJP has given the yatra has been one of the most stinging attacks it has received. The burden of rebuttal is squarely on Rahul and Mallikarjun Kharge’s shoulders. And the other opposition parties will be keeping a close eye on this leading up to the 2024 election – Today, in Srinagar, 21 of them have been invited to the yatra’s last gathering. The journey is over, but the hard work lies ahead.