Did Bharat Jodo Yatra Derail Congress in Northeast? Election No-Show Puts Success of RaGa Venture in Doubt

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Last Updated: March 02, 2023, 17:12 IST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the supporters during the Bharat Jodo Yatra near Red Fort in Delhi on Dec 24. (Image: PTI)

The question that arises after the Northeast show is if the Yatra will eventually convert into political mileage for the Congress and how long the Yatra can claim to have apolitical credentials

As results for Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya poured in and the Congress put up a no-show, the first reaction from the Grand Old Party was evasive and hinted at damage control. “The trend normally is that the party which is in power at the Centre wins these polls in Northeast,” said some leaders. This, however, completely obliterated the fact that for the many decades of Left reign in Tripura, the party was never in power at the Centre.

The results come as little surprise as the party, preoccupied with the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, paid scant regard to campaigning in the three states. Rahul Gandhi held only one rally in Meghalaya and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge did about six rallies. Apart from them, almost all top leaders of the party were missing from the campaign and those who did turn up, like Shashi Tharoor, did so at the fag-end. In contrast, as usual BJP was aggressive but even the Trinamool Congress (TMC) — which was keen to put up a show in the N-E — did put up a strong campaign with several rounds of campaigning by Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee.

So, what is the takeaway from this dismal show? With Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma switching sides and taking helm of the Northeast, this region opened the door wide to the BJP. The Congress has let go of this region and the TMC has emerged as a stronger opposition than the Congress in these areas as in Meghalaya. Once again, a new entrant has upstaged the Grand Old Party like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did in Gujarat and Goa.

This brings us to two key points. One, unless there is clear-cut opposition unity with parties who have been sworn enemies, it could be a clean path for the BJP. Now, for example, if the Left, TMC and Congress had joined hands, the result possibly would have been better. However, the deep animosity between the Left and TMC, and now the TMC and Congress makes such alliances impossible.

So, will the opposition parties now take a cue from Kharge when he indicated that all must come together despite differences for the larger goal of keeping the BJP away? That seems tough. AAP’s response to the Congress loss shows how deep the animosity is. AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj tweeted to remind the Congress that in all the states AAP had not contested yet, the Grand Old Party had lost — a reference to the Congress stand that AAP is the ‘B team’ of BJP, propped up to erase the Congress.

Second, for the Congress, Northeast has been a story of neglect, reinforcing the fact that once it gets wiped out from a region, it seldom regains. Broken cadre and broken spirit end up breaking the party. While the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ traction cannot be connected to this, the question beckons — Can the Yatra eventually convert into political mileage for the Congress? And how long can the Yatra claim to have apolitical credentials?

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