Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi completed the first stretch of his “Kisan Mahayatra from Deoria to Delhi” this Sunday, covering 824 km across 12 districts of mainly eastern Uttar Pradesh. But despite the limelight, the public as well as Congress workers seem more confused than ever about the party’s exact 2017 election strategy.
People seem to doubt whether the focus of the Yatra is actually the “Kisan” (farmer), because a majority of Rahul’s speeches have been about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the issues of farmers being a subtext at best. Rahul has spoken a lot about the Prime Minister’s foreign visits, his expensive suits, pre-poll promises to bring back black money and generate employment. While this, especially his constant use of the phrase “Janta Trasta, Modi Masta”, did get good response in the minority dominated areas of eastern UP like Jaunpur and Mau, not many in the crowd were confident enough to commit their vote just yet.
Along the road in Jaunpur, as Rahul kept speaking about Modi, a middle aged Muslim asked: “Woh sab to thik, par kisan yatra mein bunkar ke liye kya hai (that’s all fine, but what’s there for a weaver in this farmers’ rally”. His voice obviously did not reach Rahul, who went on about Prime Minister’s suit and moved on to the next stop.
Another major confusion is about who exactly the Congress is trying to reach out to? With Rahul speaking about taking everyone along, one day he is seen performing a “pooja” at Hanuman Garhi, becoming the first in his family to visit Ayodhya after the Babri demolition, the very next day he is seen having lunch at a Madrasa in Jaunpur. Soon after, he’s part of “Brahman Samaj pooja”, with a “Chandan tika” on his forehead chanting mantras with the whole of Jaunpur watching. He hasn’t missed an opportunity to garland statues of Ambedkar either and has stopped for lunch at at least two Dalit homes.
Also, the concept of the cot, the Khaat, has failed to achieve its purpose so far. With most of the Khaat Sabhas happening after 6 pm, neither Rahul nor the public is left with the excitement for interactions. Thus the Khaat Sabha’s end up being a mere formality, despite being pre-planned. Rahul has little time to actually enter into any discussion and ends up giving his usual speech asking farmers to support his campaign seeking “loan waiver, cutting electricity bills by half and ensuring better minimum support price for crop”. All this, of course, with a good dose of “Modi bashing”.