What next after Bharat Jodo Yatra? Cong draws up future strategies
Aware that the goodwill and momentum gained by the Congress party due to its ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) may not last for long once Rahul Gandhi’s foot march ends in Srinagar early next year, the Grand Old Party has begun drawing follow-up strategies.
On Friday (December 23), Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge, met the party general secretaries, in-charges of various states, Congress Legislature Party leaders, and chiefs of all state Congress units to finalise the blueprint for the party’s next mass-mobilisation and outreach program. Starting January 26, the Congress will launch its Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan – a two-month-long campaign that will be spearheaded by local leaders in every state and involve padayatras at the block and village levels.
In Karnataka, where Assembly polls are due in April-May next year, the party has decided to launch the Abhiyan from January 1 in the hope that the organisational and political impetus gained at the grassroots level as a result of the Haath Se Haath Jodo initiative and the BJY before that will directly feed into the party’s assembly election campaign.
Two-month-long ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan’
Stating that it is “absolutely essential” that the momentum they have gained because of the Bharat Jodo Yatra doesn’t dissipate after the yatra concludes, the Congress general secretary (Organisation), KC Venugopal, said, “To ensure that our leaders at the state, district, village and block level carry forward the message of BJY and mobilise the party at the grassroots, we have decided to launch a two-month-long Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan.”
The party has decided that its state Congress chiefs will depute two senior state-level leaders for every district to supervise the preparations for and execution of the padayatra in every block. Party sources said the padayatris would be provided with copies of a message from Rahul Gandhi detailing why he launched the 3,570 km Kanyakumari to Srinagar foot- march and also a “charge-sheet” listing the failures of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
Kharge has reportedly told party colleagues that while distributing these messages, party workers must also collect basic information about the people they visit, such as the problems they face in day-to-day life, their expectations from elected representatives and the government as well as feedback about the Congress. The information thus gathered will then be used by the party while drawing up its manifesto and election campaign strategy in these states and also for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Massive rallies planned in state capitals
Venugopal said that while village sabhas and interaction between party leaders and important people in every block/village will be organised through the course of the two-month-long campaign, the culmination of the Abhiyan would be with a “massive rally to be organised in the state capital”. These rallies in state capitals will, however, not happen simultaneously. This is to ensure that either Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge or Rahul Gandhi is available to address the state capital rallies.
Additionally, in every state, the party will also dedicate one day for a Mahila Adhikar padayatra and rally that will be organised in the capital. These rallies too will be organised on different dates across all states and will be led by the Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Sources said Kharge, who took over as the Congress chief in October, accorded “top priority” to preparations for the Haath Se Haath Jodo campaign in the wake of recurring questions within the party on how it plans to take advantage, both organisationally and politically, of the support that Rahul’s BJY was visibly drawing from common citizens.
Kharge places premium on performance
A close aide of the Congress president told The Federal that the campaign being launched on January 26 would be the “first of several” initiatives that Kharge plans to roll out gradually to ensure his atrophying party’s revival. This is in line with the stance that Kharge has taken ever since he addressed the first meeting of the Congress Steering Committee (a body that has temporarily replaced the Congress Working Committee) on December 4.
Addressing his maiden steering committee meeting, Kharge had placed a premium on performance and, in a message that had left several senior leaders stunned, declared that those office bearers who cannot perform their duties must be prepared to make way for others.
On Friday (December 23) too, as he met with Congress general secretaries, state in-charges, CLP leaders and PCC chiefs, Kharge gently but firmly reiterated the need for “organisational accountability from top to bottom” – something he had also said during the December 4 steering committee meeting – but also added another element to this pitch, that of “performance measurement.”
It may be recalled that the Udaipur Declaration adopted by the Congress after its Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir held in May this year had stated that the party’s organisational general secretary would “assess the performance of the office bearers of All India Congress Committee, Pradesh Congress Committees and District Congress Committees,” based on which the office bearers will either be promoted or removed.
On Friday, Kharge indicated that he was serious about implementing this proposal of the Udaipur Declaration. “It should not be that appointments (to various party posts) are reduced to mere objects of decorations while the party gains nothing,” Kharge said, while asserting that the “performance of every office bearer must be reviewed every six months, and, wherever found necessary, these should be reconsidered.”
Kharge against favouritism in appointments
The Congress president also told all PCC chiefs that for appointments to be made at the block and district level shortly, they must give due recognition to people of merit and those who have remained loyal to the party. In a curt message against favouritism in appointments, Kharge said, “appointments made by prioritising personal preferences over merit and loyalty render an organisation hollow”.
Kharge also made it clear that the party could not afford to sit back and relax after the BJY concluded and said that the proposed Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan was a corollary to Rahul’s padayatra, aimed at ensuring that the Congress’s mass mobilisation efforts did not fizzle out.
Meanwhile, the BJY will reach the national capital on Saturday (December 24) and, after a day-long foot march from the Badarpur border to Rajghat, break for nine days. The yatra is entering Delhi amid renascent fears of yet another COVID outbreak due to the rising number of cases in China that have now triggered fresh concerns globally.
Mandaviya’s letter to Rahul smacks of double standards: Khera
The Congress has also got into a spat with the BJP-led Centre which wanted Rahul Gandhi to either ensure that people participating in the foot march follow necessary COVID protocols or suspend the BJY in view of the “public health emergency”. However, Rahul and the Congress have remained defiant.
Referring to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s letter to him that had appealed for suspending the yatra, Rahul had said, on December 22, that the Centre and the BJP were using the “excuse of COVID” to halt the BJY because they were rattled at the massive outpouring of popular support that the countrywide yatra had received ever since it began from Kanyakumari on September 7.
On Friday too, the Congress rejected the possibility of disbanding the BJY. The party’s media wing chief, Pawan Khera, said, “if the Centre issues guidelines based on expert scientific opinion for COVID protocols to be followed, the Congress party will abide by it fully. But if they are trying to stop the yatra purely out of petty politics, we want to tell them no one from the BJP or the RSS can stop us or the message that the BJY is trying to spread… we are prepared for a confrontation.”
Khera said Mandaviya’s letter to Rahul smacked of “double standards”.
He said, “The BJP has tried all kinds of conspiracies to defame and stop the yatra. Finally, the Union health minister wrote to Rahul Gandhi, and only Rahul Gandhi but not to any other political leader or party, using the excuse of COVID to stall the yatra. In Gujarat, a mega Kankaria Carnival and a Flower Show at the Sabarmati Riverfront are about to be organised in which an estimated four lakh and two lakh people, respectively, will participate daily. In MP, the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is about to be hosted and it will be attended by both the President of India and the Prime Minister. Has any letter been sent demanding that these events be suspended?”