A few interesting and politically significant developments have taken place in the country in the last few weeks.
One, for the first time in many years, it is the opposition which is setting the agenda, somewhat stunning the national ruling party, its IT cell and the Godi media which are struggling to respond and catch up. Such an equation hasn’t happened for a long, long time, except for an occasional barb like the “suit-boot ki sarkaar”, made by Rahul Gandhi, to which the BJP nervously responded by ending up auctioning Modi’s targetted suit. Otherwise, BJP has been rapid-firing at the Congress and the Opposition at the rate of almost a new issue per week or even on a daily basis, giving the latter barely any time to put their act together. It was BJP’s version of the “shock and awe” strategy, to which the Congress and others could only respond tamely.
Almost suddenly, the tables now seem overturned. This time, the slide was triggered by Nitish Kumar severing his party’s association with the BJP and putting in his government’s resignation in Bihar. Having seen the recent happenings in Maharashtra, he sensed and pre-empted similar action in Bihar through a move that was extremely well-timed. For the BJP, this came as a bolt from the blue since that was someth-ing the BJP itself has been specializing in through its established modus operandi of ”ruling a state after winning its elections; ruling a state even after losing its elections!”
What heightened BJP’s dilemma was Rahul Gandhi starting the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is now one month since the proposed 3700+ km, five-month long Yatra started, and its simple message of “peace and harmony” and “against hatred and division”, underlining the country’s fears, dilemma, s-ilence and sense of helples-sness and seeking to strike at their roots, is already drawing increasing public response and participation, not to discount curiosity.
Since then, it is the Congress, with its own IT cell seemingly energized, which is putting up a surprisingly strong show, actually outclassing the ruling dispensation and controlling the political narrative. The ruling BJP, in cohoot with its IT cell and the Godi media, are expectedly not responding on critical concerns and issues, and instead doing everything to distract the country’s attention with, like giving way to an ambulance on an empty road, and generally maligning the Yatra over petty, inconsequential issues. All this is not convincing too many and, in the process, actually seeing more skeletons tumbling out of BJP’s cupboards and at the moment somewhat subduing its Facebook and WhatsApp university bhakt in their postings. So, currently, it is the Congress and the Opposition which are dominating air time and the social media, so much so that even the messy lead-up to the party presidential election in the Congress, has not really dented its image and, in fact, has raised a counter discussion on internal democracy within all political parties.
The mess in the Congress presidential election shouldn’t have happened in the first place but is entirely self-created and only reflective of the party’s inner characteristics – of intrigues, shenanigans and trickeries – and true to its habit of scoring self-goals. It laid bare the hollow claims and sham of “free and fair” elections. To begin with, asking Gehlot to give up his present post before applying to stand for the election, was a curious condition, to say the least. In a way, it pre-confirmed that Gehlot will duly win the Presidential election – underlining his status as the “official” non-official (or “non-official” official, whichever) candidate. Gehlot was not keen to give up his state overlordship and take on the difficult responsibilities of steering the Congress ship across choppy waters, but did not have the moral courage to say “No” to Sonia Gandhi. So, he did what most coward courtiers do – he engineered a backdoor show of revolt against the party’s central leadership.
The BJP couldn’t have missed this chance that came served to it on a platter and any other time, it would have gleefully roasted the Congress. But not this time – not because it didn’t try but that its attempts proved to be mostly ineffective. On the contrary, it only helped underline and magnify the fact that across the entire country, the Congress was possibly the only political party which could claim to practice internal democracy and have election, even if that was merely cosmetic. Moreover, BJP questioning the Congress on this issue actually boomeranged on it, since in its present state, it couldn’t make any claim to having democratic credentials – not by several miles! And the limp controversy actually saved the Congress from being grilled by the social media with genuine questions on its future, on it addressing a long-distance vision.
This almost turn around in the political narrative in the country, has many apparent and subtle reasons, but at this time, the Bharat Jodo Yatra makes a definite contribution to it. In the present circumstances, it is not only a very creative and well-planned programme, but also extremely courageous and far-reaching – yet so basically simple, universal and down to earth – in its thought, intent and execution. Having said that, I agree that the true impact of Bharat Jodo Yatra is very much in the future.
So, is the political narrative changing? It is a bit too early to confirm that the tide has changed. But, for the moment we are seeing a beginning. Bharat Jodo Yatra has set the tone for several interesting and politically significant openings, indeed opening the window of the room for people suffocating for breath. It is up to the people now, how we proceed here onwards and seek this optimism to overcome our fear, lethargy and hesitancy.