The Kerala leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra comes to an end today. Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the march on foot, has through the yatra been showcased as a personable character, whom the common public can easily interact with. Visuals of people of every age and creed, meeting with the Congress leader have created great optics.
But whether the “overwhelming response” the Congress says it has received, and which can be seen through visuals of the yatra, repeats itself in Karnataka next – where Assembly polls will be held in 2023 – and as it progresses on through other states is a mystery especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be keen to see.
In 2021, the Congress party was beaten down in the Kerala Assembly elections. Still, here the fact remains that the people have majorly voted and brought into power the Congress or the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – which is currently in power with the Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliance. Rahul Gandhi also won from Wayanad in Kerala during the Lok Sabha election of 2019, while having lost his family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Last Steps In Kerala
Malappuram to Nilgiris says the Bharat Jodo Yatra website. It’s perhaps not symbolic and only convenient that the march for unity passes through this district to enter Tamil Nadu, entering Karnataka on September 30. But Malappuram has had its fair share of controversies, in political rivalries and clashes between groups such as the Popular Front of India (PFI) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The newly banned PFI’s five leaders, including its national chairman OMA Salam, were arrested in raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the district in the recent crackdown on the group. Also, out of a total of 308 cases registered in connection with the violence during PFI hartal in Kerala, the maximum was in Malappuram with 34 cases and 128 people taken into preventive detention.
The district is Muslim-majority, a fact used against it in 2020 when an elephant died after biting into a crude bait she found while wandering through the forests in Palakkad in search of food.
Rumours over social media instead said it was Malappuram district where the elephant encountered the crude device which would eventually lead to her painful death. Former Union Minister and BJP leader Maneka Gandhi used it as fodder to say “Malappuram is very famous for incidents like this”, going on to call it the most violent district in the whole of India… “They will hit women. There are political conflicts in which they have cut off people’s arms. It is an extremely violent area.”
But Rahul Gandhi, even as he takes the march for unity and has called out the divisions in the country even going to say that “The RSS-BJP led government is following the old principle of British, divide and rule”, has also focused on the country’s unemployment, and economic crisis. The two topics that many believe need to be the highlight of the party which has been nearly decimated in the country.
He has also told the media: “The Yatra is designed to tell the people of India that they need to unite, go back to the India which is not at war with itself, which is not angry with itself. A divided India is not acceptable. An India where youngsters don’t get jobs is not acceptable. An India where the poor is drowned in high prices is not acceptable.” In a Facebook post, Gandhi said he had been meeting youngsters during the yatra, understanding their expectations from the government, and the help they wanted.
The Yatra which began on 7th September from Kanyakumari will cover 12 states, culminating in Jammu and Kashmir. The plan is to cover a distance of nearly 3,500 Km over the course of about 150 days.