NEW DELHI, Dec 16: Even as the Congress has taken upon the task of reconstituting the party’s state units where it suffered drubbings in the hands of the BJP in the recently-held state Assembly elections, the party leader Rahul Gandhi is planning to launch the second leg of the “Bharat Jodo Yatra,” this time from east to West to prepare for the 2024 Parliamentary elections.
The Congress sources said on Saturday that was set to embark on the second leg of the Yatra next month — expected from the North-East — and make it the lynchpin of his campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. But unlike the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, the focus this time would be on livelihood issues such as unemployment and inflation as he looked to set the tone for the party’s poll thrust. Even for the December 13 parliament security breach, Gandhi had held unemployment and inflation responsible to attack the policies of the Narendra Modi government. He feels jobs are an emotive topic that can strike a chord with the people.
“There has been a security breach. But why did it happen? The biggest issue in the country is the issue of unemployment which is boiling all over the country. Because of Modi’s policies, India’s youth are unable to find jobs. The breach has happened… but unemployment and inflation are the reasons behind it,” Gandhi said on Saturday.
Congress sources said Gandhi had also been trying to get the party’s floor managers in Parliament to link the breach to unemployment and not take it in the direction of security and get entangled in technicalities, such as seeking a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah.
The Congress and other Opposition parties of the INDIA bloc had stalled Parliament Thursday and Friday, resulting in suspension of 14 MPs, seeking a statement from Shah on the security lapse. They have resolved to disrupt Parliament’s functioning until the Home Minister gives a statement in the House.
Smarting under the recent defeat in three Hindi heartland states — which ensured that the small hill state of Himachal Pradesh is Congress’s lone outpost in the north — the party has been searching for answers and issues to corner the government. Some of the Congress’s Parliament leaders felt the breach was a potent issue to put the government on the mat, given its security ramifications.
Gandhi and the Congress had in the past often targeted the government over joblessness and price rise. The Periodic Labour Force Survey for the period July 2022 to July 2023 released by the Ministry of Statistic and Programme Implementation showed that the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.6 percent to 5.1 percent over the last year. Although the unemployment rate for urban areas was at the lowest level since the launch of the PLFS bulletin in 2018, the survey also showed that nearly 14 states recorded a higher urban unemployment rate than the national average.
Sources said the modalities for Gandhi’s Yatra were being worked out. The Yatra was likely to begin from one of the North Eastern states in January. “While he will address rallies here and there, the Yatra will be Rahul’s campaign in the Lok Sabha elections,” sources said. “Of course, there will be joint rallies with INDIA parties, but his focus would be on the Yatra.”
“We are working out the details. The Yatra may start from Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram or some place in eastern Assam where all the leaders of the North-Eastern states would be together. It will be a hybrid Yatra where all modes of transport will be used,” one leader said.
The Yatra will be timed to enter the mainland as the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections picks up pace. “The larger message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra was against the politics of hatred. The next Yatra’s focus would be livelihood issues like jobs and price rise. Some leaders feel it should be called Bharat Jodo Yatra 2 as there is a brand recall. Some feel the Yatra should have a new name. There are pros and cons,” a leader said.
Meanwhile, as per the reconstitution of the state units, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Saturday stepped down from the post of state party president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee on Saturday, and in his place the former MLA Jitu Patwari was appointed the state president.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary KC Venugopal informed that Patwari was the new president and that the “party appreciates the contributions of the outgoing PCC President, Kamal Nath”.
The Congress has also appointed tribal leader Uman Singhar as the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly and Hemant Katare as the deputy leader. With these appointments, the Congress party has inducted young leaders to the top posts, necessitated by the fact that the party lacked youth leaders as it headed into the assembly elections. The Congress candidates were mostly selected by the 77-year old Nath and the 76-year old another former chief minister Digvijaya Singh.