The CPI(M)’s surprise criticism of the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra Monday contrasting the days Rahul Gandhi will spend on his march in the Left-ruled Kerala with those in the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh has brought the finer points of the Yatra into the spotlight.
According to the details emerging from the Congress camp, the Yatra would spend the maximum time in Rajasthan and Karnataka: 21 days. Both states are bound for elections next year: While the Assembly elections are due in Karnataka in May 2023, Rajasthan will go to polls along with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana six months later.
However, the Congress leaders insist that the Yatra is not aimed at state-specific elections. They argue that it will, for instance, not go to Gujarat where the Assembly elections are due this year-end. Similarly, it will not pass through Chhattisgarh.
The CPI(M), which has now shrunk to Kerala now after losing its erstwhile bastions, West Bengal and Tripura, castigated the Congress over the Yatra. The Marxist party tweeted a caricature of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with a text asking if it was a “Bharat Jodo” or “Seat Jodo” campaign. “18 days in Kerala…2 days in UP. Strange way to fight BJP-RSS,” it read.
Senior Kerala CPI(M) leader M V Jayarajan said the time spent by Rahul in various states showed that the Congress was not ready to take on the BJP. “Rahul considers the Left as the main opponent. He and his party are running away from taking the Sangh Parivar challenge. He can’t see BJP as the main opponent. Congress cannot fight the policies of BJP,’’ he charged.
Hitting back, Jairam Ramesh, AICC general secretary in-charge of communications, tweeted, while flagging the CPM post: “Do your homework better on how and why yatra was planned the way it is. And silly criticism from a party that is the A team of BJP in the land of MunduModi.”
Ramesh’s “Mundu Modi” was a jibe at Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) stalwart Pinarayi Vijayan. The Congress party in Kerala has coined it to attack CM Vijayan’s functioning, alleging that the latter was a mundu (dhoti)-wearing Kerala version of Narendra Modi.
The Congress leaders said the CPI(M)’s criticism was unfounded. “By that logic, the Yatra will spend 21 days each in Karnataka and Rajasthan. The Congress is in direct fight with the BJP in these two states. It will spend 16 days in Madhya Pradesh. There also the Congress is fighting the BJP,” a leader said.
Sources in the Congress said the Yatra will in fact spend 5 days in Uttar Pradesh as against the earlier schedule of two days. They said the decision was taken a couple of days ago, before the CPI(M) took a dig at the march.
According to the Congress camp, the nearly 150-day Yatra will spend 18 days in Kerala, 21 days in Karnataka, 13 days in Telangana, 16 days each in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, 21 days in Rajasthan, five days in Uttar Pradesh, 2 days in Delhi, 12 days in Haryana and 11 days in Punjab before reaching Jammu and Kashmir.
Congress sources said the party leadership holds a review meeting everyday and makes minor tweaks in it depending on “latest inputs”.
“The days are revised almost daily. Programmes for a state are frozen about 3-4 weeks in advance,” a senior leader said, adding there could be minor changes as the Yatra advances.
The question is, why did the Congress choose the route they decided and how did they arrive at the number of Yatra’s days in each of the 12 states through which it will pass.
The days, party sources said, would depend on the route length. “We started from Tamil Nadu and we need to cross Kerala to enter Karnataka. We walk approximately 20-22 km every day. So it will take 18-19 days to reach Karnataka,” a leader said. As regards the route, party leaders said topography and security were factors that determined it.
The question of the Yatra spending more time in one state and less in another was addressed by Rahul Gandhi last week. “I don’t think we are spending any more time in any state. I have made it….I mean we have discussed it and I think we are giving similar time to all states,” he had said at a media interaction last week.
The CPI(M) has taken note that Rahul, an MP from Kerala’s Wayanad constituency, got a rousing reception at the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border on Sunday and that his events were drawing huge crowds in Kerala so far. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-led UDF had won 19 out of 20 seats in Kerala, with Rahul’s entry into its fray helping it achieve this sweep.
The CPI(M) has had been critical of Rahul’s decision to choose Wayanad as his constituency, calling it his “escape from facing the main opponent BJP”. The party seems to be apprehensive that his 18-day Kerala march would boost the Congress’s prospects afresh.
Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra: Number of days in a state
Tamil Nadu: 4 days
Kerala: 18 days
Karnataka: 21 days
Telangana: 13 days
Maharashtra: 16 days
Madhya Pradesh: 16 days
Rajasthan: 21 days
Uttar Pradesh: 5 days
Delhi: 2 days
Haryana: 12 days
Punjab: 11 days
Jammu & Kashmir: Not finalised