Amid Rajasthan Crisis, Can Rahul Gandhi Salvage Congress with Bharat Jodo Karnataka Yatra?">
Rahul Gandhi will be setting foot in the BJP-ruled state of Karnataka on September 30 as part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir amid the Congress government crisis in Rajasthan. He will enter through Gundlupet in Chamarajanagar district and will be welcomed by top Congress leaders of the state.

Some experts are saying Rahul’s Karnataka Yatra would be quite the “tightrope walk”, with the chaos in the Rajasthan government overshadowing the party’s political campaign.

Let’s see what does the game plan look like:

Rahul’s Karnataka Itinerary

Entering Karnataka from the Ooty-Calicut junction in Gundlupet Chamarajanagar, Rahul is expected to halt at Begur in the district for the night.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president R Dhruvanarayana, who will also be coordinating the Mysuru stretch, said the party has scheduled interactions between Rahul Gandhi and civil society members, small-scale entrepreneurs, people from the business community, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) workers as well as members of the Soliga tribe that inhabit the Chamarajanagar region among other places,” Dhruvanarayana told News18.

On the second day of the Padayatra, Rahul will head towards Mysore district and will stay the night at Thandavapura village to resume his walk towards the Khadi Gramodyog Kendra in Badanavalu in Nanjangud taluk of Mysuru district on Gandhi Jayanti on October 2. He is scheduled to spend the first half of the day at the centre, which the Congress leaders explain was visited by Mahatma Gandhi twice — in 1927 and in 1932 — and was run by his staunch follower Tagadur Ramachandra Rao.

The Padyatra ends in Mysore city where the leader is expected to meet people and interact with them as the party members camp at the exhibition grounds opposite the famous Mysore Palace.

Mysore has been chosen for the Padyatra as it is the largest city in the state. It is also decked up to celebrate the Dasara festival in royal style and Rahul is likely to participate in it, confirmed a Congress leader.

A meeting with civil society members organised by well-known and highly-regarded literary voices in Karnataka Devanur Mahadeva has been organised in Mysuru. Mahadeva is an outspoken critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and recently wrote and published ‘RSS: Aala Mattu Agala’ (RSS: It’s Depth and Width).

Under the banner of Samajwadi Vedike for the Bharat Jodo Yatra, hundreds of organisations across Karnataka have extended their support to the yatra and are expected to join the campaign under the leadership of a retired professor of University of Agricultural Sciences in Bengaluru, Prakash Kammardi.

From October 3 to 6, Rahul will be in the Mandya district of Karnataka, the heartland of the second largest community Vokkaligas, and the bastion of Deve Gowda and his political family. A senior leader admitted that Congress will try winning back the Mandya, which was once its prime seat. The dues relating to farmers, education and unemployment will also be discussed with locals and leaders.

The padayatra will continue towards Tumakuru, Sira, and Chitradurga towards Ballari after which it proceeds towards Telangana.

Meanwhile, posters of the Congress leader were found torn last night in Gundlupet– from where he will kick-start his tour.

Bringing People Closer

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP from Ballari Syed Naseer Hussain stresses that the Padayatra is an effort to reconnect with the people of India. Calling it a joint effort to bring back an ideal India, which is a celebration and appreciation of diversities in the country, Hussain adds that Rahul Gandhi is rekindling that connection that people seem to have lost.

“The Constitution of India gives all citizens the right to live with equality, liberty and dignity. All this is being snatched away by a set of people who are in power. We have to reclaim our Constitution and save our people from the clutches of a dictatorial government that benefits a few,” Hussain told News18.

He also said institutions such as the Election Commission, judiciary, UPSC, Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, and IT should not be misused by the government to target certain people of the country who do not believe in what the government does. “They have to reclaim their autonomy,” he adds.

While the Congress says the response to the Padyatra in Tamil Nadu and Kerala was unprecedented, their Karnataka counterparts are all set to use Rahul’s presence for 22 days as a run-up to the 2023 assembly elections.

Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar, who has reportedly urged Rahul to take over party’s national president, said he and the Bharat Jodo Yatra have been highlighting the plight of common people and how they have been deceived by the ruling government in the Centre and state. “He is raising his voice against price rise, high levels of corruption, unemployment and the plight of our farmers while stitching the country together with peace,” Shivakumar told News18.

A Show of Unity Within State Congress?

Political commentator Sandeep Shastri said Rahul is reaching Karnataka at a time when the Congress government crisis in Rajasthan has raised a question over the high command’s skills to keep the party under control.

“If the Rajasthan stalemate continues, it may overshadow the whole yatra, especially when he is in a BJP-ruled state,” Shastri said.

He also adds if former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah’s birthday celebrations were the launch of the Congress election campaign in the state, the Bharat Jodo Yatra can be seen as the second phase of their campaign. Not only is Gandhi entering a state that is ruled by the BJP, but he is also coming into a state that is headed to polls shortly where there is a direct confrontation between the BJP and Congress, the political expert says.

“Will the Yatra show unity within the Karnataka Congress? How will Rahul Gandhi handle the delicate balancing of leaders and treatment of leaders, an issue that has been a rollercoaster for them in Rajasthan? How does he bring the state leadership to work together without playing favourites? Are some of the questions that need answers making this Yatra important,” Shastri explains.

Dakshin Kannada Not on Yatra Schedule

One region that the Padyatra does not pass through is southern Karnataka, which the BJP has already begun highlighting. They say that Congress fears that they would be met with an embarrassing turnout in the region which has “evicted” the party from its soil.

“They are not coming anywhere in the Dakshina Kannada region as they know they will be pushed out by their people. Rahul Gandhi is asking in all the places where he wants the Congress to be decimated. Dakshin Kannada has already rejected them, so they dare not come there,” said BJP national general secretary CT Ravi to News18.

Shastri pointed out that Rahul is travelling to those areas where the Congress’s chances of doing well are more visible.

Senior Congress leader Priyank Kharge said the Dakshin Kannada region was not on the schedule as India is a large country and Rahul Gandhi needs to cover the length and breadth within a certain time.

“It is a Bharat Jodo Yatra, not a Karnataka Jodo Yatra alone. Rahul Gandhi ji has to cover long distances and the Padyatra rail was mapped accordingly to ensure maximum reach and coverage,” he added.

Sonia and Priyanka to Join Rahul

Though the dates are yet to be finalised, Congress sources confirm that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are expected to join the yatra either in the Chamarajanagar-Mysore stretch or the Ballari region.

Sonia Gandhi will be present at a public meeting in Ballari, the seat that came into the national limelight when a high-voltage election was fought between her and BJP’s Sushma Swaraj in 1999. Once considered a Congress citadel since the first general election in 1952, Sonia had contested from Amethi and Bellary (now called Ballari) and defeated Swaraj by 56,000 votes.

There have been several invitations extended to Priyanka Gandhi to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Karnataka, like her mother and grandmother, but she is yet to take that call. She is, however, scheduled to interact with women at Nagamangala in Mandya district and hold a few corner meetings as well.

Interestingly, if polling becomes necessary to elect the president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi is expected to cast his ballot in Bengaluru on October 17.

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