<<The Bharat Jodo Yatra has finally arrived. Its entry into the national
capital coincided with its arrival in the national consciousness, thanks to
the belated and grudging recognition by a large section of the mainstream
media. And it has arrived on the political landscape too, aided by the
Narendra Modi government’s ham-handed and disingenuous use of the Covid
threat to stop the yatra.

When you arrive, you face scrutiny. It is a mark of its success that the
yatra has invited critical commentary from some of the leading minds of
India. So far, it has had live streamings, official narratives, travelogues
by some of the yatris and fellow travellers, ground reports, and occasional
reflective pieces. Some of the recent articles take the debate to a
different level, beyond discussions about Rahul Gandhi’s T-shirt, yatri
containers, and yatra route. The debate has now shifted to the heart of the
matter: Its impact on national political life, specifically its ability to
offer a political and ideological counter to the hegemonic power that is
out to dismantle our republic. Reclaiming the republic is the central
challenge of our times; the Bharat Jodo Yatra must be judged against this
...One could say that the critics do not fully appreciate the conditions in
which the yatra was launched or that the range of possibilities they
imagine is much wider than what was available to the yatra. One could also
argue that its effects would be visible much after it is over, something
acknowledged by Mehta himself. But this kind of counter-argument is
pointless. After all, the yatra has not reached its destination. Indeed,
its destination must go beyond Srinagar — to the mind and heart of every
Indian. These mid-term assessments must be seen as guides to action, as
lighthouses. A yatri would do well to heed Palshikar’s call to expand the
“geographical, political, and intellectual scope” of the yatra. Or address
Mehta’s three tests — creating a new ideological vision, gaining political
momentum, and becoming the fulcrum of opposition unity.

These critical appraisals help us reach a grounded sense of what the Bharat
Jodo Yatra has achieved so far on two main fronts — ideological and
political — and what it needs to focus on when it resumes in the new year.
The ideological challenge that the Bharat Jodo Yatra has taken on is its
toughest test. This is the main reason why many peoples’ movements and
organisations like ours have rallied behind this yatra. Any success here
would benefit the entire opposition, not just the Congress. The yatra’s
main achievement is that it has challenged, head on, the ideological
hegemony of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party dyad. In
an ideological climate in which even its opponents are copying the BJP’s
‘Hindutva’, the Bharat Jodo Yatra has recalled constitutional values and
shown a resolve to stand for secularism. It is after a long time that a
political leader has taken to the public platform to castigate crony
capitalism. The yatra’s message is not limited to what is spoken from the
stage or at press conferences. It communicates without speaking. Its
pilgrimage-like character, invocation of tapasya, and the solidarity it
creates have managed to dent the ideological hegemony of the BJP. It has
re-enchanted words like love and unity and foregrounded the India of the
farmers, workers, and the poor. It has made it possible to speak against
hatred. This is no mean achievement.

On the other, more directly political front too, the yatra has achieved
something rare: It has brought feet on the ground. In the last instance, a
republic survives if and when the public comes out on the streets to defend
it. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has shown a glimpse of it.
That is, of course, just the beginning. A successful yatra is no guarantee
of electoral success. The first stop will have to be the non-National
Democratic Alliance parties. While we don’t need an electoral
mahagathbandhan of the entire opposition, there is a crying need for a
unity of purpose. The challenge of convincing and converting the swing
voter is still far away.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra has managed to drill a hole in the wall of lies and
hatred that face our republic. It has let in a ray of hope and some fresh
air. But the real work will begin after the yatra. As Suhas Palshikar
alerts us, the Bharat Jodo Yatra must not remain an event. It must become a

(Excerpted from: <

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