Bharat Jodo: Full marks for effort but Rahul has still a long way to go

Bharat Jodo would be a colossal wastage of time, effort and resource if Rahul Gandhi continues to focus on likability over electoral winnability

| Updated: 11 January, 2023 4:55 pm IST

Rahul Gandhi is probably the only leader who has gone through multiple image transitions in full public glare. From the dimpled boy who at one point, Bollywood divas like Kareena Kapoor and Deepika Padukone wanted to date, to his angry young man phase with ‘pulling-up-his-sleeves avatar’ who tore off ordinances passed by his own Prime Minister
— the brand Rahul has been repackaged over and over again.

With back to back electoral debacles, the well publicized Bharat Jodo Yatra has given the Brand Rahul another shot at staying relevant. Gandhi didn’t disappoint altogether in this new initiative. The rebranding as an accessible leader, a man who is inclusive in his politics, who doesn’t shy away from holding hands with women, and is open to infusing politics with young blood was done quite successfully.

What was particularly endearing, and perfectly played up by his social media team were the private moments he shared with his sister and mother, publicly. A reflection of a modern, close-knit family where one is bound by mutual love without the pressures of playing roles of an ideal son in a traditional Indian family set up.

It also established that Gandhi is a fit man, who at least had the physical tenacity to undertake an arduous journey.The hoopla around him wearing only a T-shirt in chilling Delhi winters was a little overdone though.

Despite the many positives, Bharat Jodo falters on exactly the same counts that plague Rahul’s career as a politician, what is jokingly dismissed to be perpetually in a launch mode.

First, Bharat Jodo, by its very design, has no electoral goals as it has skipped marching in most poll-bound states. Rahul’s aversion towards accountability on electoral gains and losses continued with Bharat Jodo even as his party suffered a humiliating defeat in Gujarat. To that end, Bharat Jodo will not do for Rahul what Andra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy achieved with his massively high octane physically draining padyatra of 2017, culminating in a decisive victory for him in the 2019 assembly elections.

If the purpose is to project Gandhi as a philosopher or a statesman like the Mahatma or Nehru, it completely falls flat. Gandhi’s proclivity to make vague and incoherent statements about love, unity and about himself continues to show him in poor light. The deracinated comments on Savarakar in Maharashtra, where even the Pawars, the strongest flag-bearers of secular politics wouldn’t dare speak against the great patriot of India, exposed his political immaturity once again. Just as his optics of walking with a Hijab-clad woman as a sign of inclusivity reeks of stale secular posturing, isn’t helping Congress’ cause any longer.

Also, some of the personalities whom Rahul welcomed and took along in his yatra, are questionable choices. Former RAW chief and former special director of Intelligence Bureau, AS Dulat for example, has drawn flak on his pro-Pakistan policy.

Finally, we are still largely unaware of Rahul Gandhi’s ideas on economy, national security, administrative issues and what his plans and vision for India’s future is.

Bharat Jodo might have made Rahul likable, a man you would like to hang out with on a weekend. But he is still far from becoming a leader with gravitas and mass connect, a politician who understands the arithmetic of elections and relates to the sensitivities of India beyond his class. Bharat Jodo would be a colossal wastage of time, effort and resource if Rahul Gandhi continues to focus on likability over electoral winnability.

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