The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started on September 7, 2022, with an aim to revive the Congress party and for the party leaders to connect with the masses, finally ended on Monday (January 30), which also happens to be the Martyrs' Day (Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on this day).
During the yatra, Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders travelled through 12 states and two Union territories in nearly five months (145 days), clocking over 4,000 km.
During the course of the yatra, Rahul Gandhi addressed 12 public meetings, over 100 corner meetings, and 13 press conferences. He had over 275 planned walking interactions and more than 100 sitting interactions.
The yatra that started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, ended in Jammu Kashmir's Srinagar on Monday where it was snowing throughout the day.
Here are 6 takeaways from Congress's biggest ever public contact program:
Rahul Gandhi can draw crowds: Even though the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not impressed with the march and called it ''Bharat Todo Yatra", Gandhi showed that he has still got a lot of supporters and that he can still draws big crowds.
- Be it Kerala, Maharashtra, or Madhya Pradesh, a large number of people came to join his march and attended the rallies in big numbers.
Rahul Gandhi's image transformation: Experts have always believed that if Rahul Gandhi wants to one day be the Prime Minister of the country one day then he should connect more with the people of the country. And what could have been a better way to do that then to travel around the country for five months from south to north?
- If this will lead to Congress winning elections only time will tell, but, spending so much time with the people of the country and getting aware of the local issues of different states and constituencies will make him a better and more serious politician.
Support from all sections of society: Rahul Gandhi's march was not only joined by politicians and activists, it saw participation from actors, celebrities, writers, and military veterans including former army chief Gen (retd) Deepak Kapoor, ex-navy chief Admiral L Ramdas, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and ex-finance secretary Arvind Mayaram.
- Actors like Kamal Haasan, Pooja Bhatt, Riya Sen, Sushant Singh, Swara Bhasker, Rashami Desai, Akanksha Puri, and Amol Palekar also joined the march showing that the yatra is being supported by a cross-section of society.
Opposition strength: If we talk about politicians, it was not just the Congress leaders that joined the march. During different parts of the yatra, leaders from several parties came to join the march and showed the strength of the opposition.
- Opposition leaders such as National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdulla, PDP's Mehbooba Mufti, Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray, Priyanka Chaturvedi, and Sanjay Raut and NCP's Supriya Sule, also walked alongside Gandhi.
- During the final day of the march, leaders of several national and regional parties braved the bone-chilling cold to share the stage with Congress leaders at a rally in Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium.
- Besides Congress president Mallikarjun Karge and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi was also joined by leaders from DMK, JMM, BSP, NC, PDP, CPI, RSP, VCK, and IUML.
- Addressing the rally, CPI leader D Raja urged all secular parties of the country to unite.
Congress still the main opposition: For the last few years, and before the start of the march, there have been talks if Congress should be the main opposition party under Rahul Gandhi or not.
- With the rise of leaders like Arvind Kejriwal, K Chandrashekar Rao, Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar, and their national ambitions, many thought that one of them should unite and lead the opposition in 2024.
- KCR even went on meet many of the opposition leaders trying to make a third front. But the kind of support the yatra has received in the last few months, makes it clear that Congress is still at the front and centre of a combined opposition front for the next Lok Sabha elections and Rahul Gandhi might still be the person to lead it.
Controversies: Not everything was positive about the march. It also courted some controversies. Be it Rahul Gandhi's ever-growing beard, his Burberry T-shirt, or his comments on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the ruling BJP kept founding reasons to criticise him.
- The Savarkar controversy happened during the Maharashtra leg of the march as Congress and Shiv Sena had some differences after Gandhi attacked Savarkar over his mercy petitions.
- During the MP leg of the Yatra, a crisis erupted in the party in Rajasthan, the yatra's next destination, as CM Ashok Gehlot slammed his former deputy Sachin Pilot and called him a 'gaddar' in an interview.
- There have also been casualties during the yatra. Congress' Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary died following a cardiac arrest during the Punjab leg. A Congress Seva Dal functionary died after collapsing in Nanded in Maharashtra, reported PTI.
- Besides, a 62-year-old man from Tamil Nadu died and another person from that state was injured after being hit by a truck in Nanded when they were participating in the yatra.