The Hindu (Mumbai)

Rahul’s yatra galvanises party cadre

Congress workers say air of despondenc­y gone as the M.P. leg ends after covering more than 650 km and passing through eight LS constituen­cies; in most of the public events, Rahul Gandhi’s main plank remained a nationwide caste census as he launched scathi

- Mehul Malpani

After being on the road for nearly five days, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra ended its run in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday, with party workers in the areas it covered saying that the march has reenergise­d the cadre ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Mr. Gandhi, who entered the State on March 2 from Morena in GwaliorCha­mbal region, concluded the yatra in Ratlam of MalwaNimar region. After staying the night in Ratlam, he will enter Rajasthan on Thursday morning before entering Gujarat later in the day.

The yatra covered more than 650 kilometres and passed through eight Lok Sabha constituen­cies.

In most of the public events, Mr. Gandhi’s main plank remained a nationwide caste census as he launched scathing attacks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party has already promised to conduct the exercise if it is voted to power at the Centre.

Several Congress workers from Ratlam and Mandsaur Lok Sabha seats, who were waiting for Mr. Gandhi at Ratlam’s Favvara Chowk, said the march has given a morale boost after the massive defeat at the hands of the BJP in the November Assembly election.

‘Changed scenario’

“It had come to a point where we were conducting local meetings but workers were not turning up at all. They were also scared of the BJP workers,” said Satya Narayan Laxcar, a Congress councillor from Mandsaur where his party had lost seven out of eight Assembly seats under the Lok Sabha constituen­cy. “But today you can see hundreds of workers from Mandsaur have come here. Our place is about 90 kilometres from here but even small workers have spent from their own pockets to come here. The reason is that they relate to what Rahulji is fighting for.”

Echoing him, Faruq Patel, a Congress worker from Ratlam’s Malwasa village, said that the workers only step out if they see that there is someone to lead them.

“There was a sort of a blank after the Assembly polls. Even though Jitu Patwari (PCC president appointed after the November poll) was travelling across the State and trying to connect with workers, there was a sense that the Lok Sabha poll is too close to change the mood,” said Mr. Patel, while claiming that five days of continuous activity in different regions has given enough fodder to the local party leaders to go and seek votes on issues.

Raghav Kaushal, Gwalior district Youth Congress working president, said that a major reason for party workers’ low morale after the Assembly election was the “completely unexpected” results.

“The mood before Assembly polls was completely in our favour. We don’t know what happened, whether it was EVM or what. But we were more shocked than sad,” he said, adding that Mr. Gandhi raising the issue of ‘Agniveers’ has given the young workers a subject to connect with the region’s youth.

M.P.’s GwaliorCha­mbal belt sees a significan­t number of youth joining the armed forces and the region had seen intense protests against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme when it was introduced in 2022.

‘Field right candidates’

Some workers, however, believed that the cadre’s energy will only remain if the “right candidates are fielded” and claimed that “smalllevel leaders and their opinions were not being valued” in the party.

A functionar­y in Congress’s businessme­n wing of Ratlam district, who did not wish to be named, said, “No feedback is taken from us on candidate selection. For the Assembly poll, the decisions were made by those sitting in Bhopal, and now they will be done from Delhi.”

‘No system’

“The sitting MP from Ratlam (BJP’s Guman Singh Damor) did not work here at all. The BJP got its feedback from the ground and fielded a fresh face this time. This kind of system is missing in our party,” the leader said.

The eight Lok Sabha constituen­cies Mr. Gandhi’s yatra passed through – Morena, Gwalior, Guna, Rajgarh, Dewas, Ujjain, Dhar, and Ratlam – are currently held by the BJP, which had won 28 out of 29 seats in M.P. in 2019 barring Chhindwara.

The BJP has already announced its candidates on 24 seats, while the Congress is yet to declare any names.

 ?? A.M. FARUQUI ?? Cong. leader Rahul Gandhi during his ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ in Ratlam on Wednesday.
A.M. FARUQUI Cong. leader Rahul Gandhi during his ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ in Ratlam on Wednesday.

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