The Congress’ ambitious ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ from Kanyakumari to Kashmir can also achieve the objective of ”Congress jodo” and help in its revival, senior leader Shashi Tharoor said on Tuesday amidst churning in the party triggered by dissent and exits.
Tharoor, who is said to be contemplating running for the post of Congress president, also expressed hope that many leaders would contest the upcoming elections, and stressed he has neither ruled himself in nor out. In an interview with PTI a day before the launch of the 3,570 km-long ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Tharoor said,”the message is also that the Congress is the party that can unite India and if the public is sufficiently inspired by this message, it will indeed inaugurate the revival of the party”.
Asked about former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and BJP’s’ swipe that the party should undertake ”Congress jodo” instead of ”Bharat jodo”, the Thiruvananthapuram MP said, ”Ghulam Nabi Sahib is a respected elder and I do not wish to comment on his specific remarks.” ”But I will say that the Bharat Jodo Yatra could also unite Congressmen and women across the country around our values and ideals as well as around service to the people, by raising issues that matter to the people and showing them that we are fighting for them,” he said.
”Then it could be both ‘Bharat Jodo’ and ‘Congress jodo’,” Tharoor said. Tharoor was among the group of 23 leaders who wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking large-scale organizational reforms. His remarks come amid repeated jibes by the BJP over dissenting voices within the Congress over various issues. Asked about the possibility of him running for the post of the Congress president, Tharoor said,”I have only welcomed the fact that an election will be held. I believe that is very good for the party.” After all, which other political party has had an open election for its top post among such a large electorate of almost 10,000 voters, he asked.
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”Of course it is gratifying that this general statement of democratic principle has immediately led to large numbers of people around the country welcoming the prospect of my contesting. But as I have made it clear, I have not declared my candidacy,” Tharoor said.
Pointing out that the notification of such an election is only happening on September 22, he said it means colleagues still have three weeks to think about whether they would like to join the fray.
”I hope many will contest in order to give the membership a wide choice. So far I have neither ruled myself in nor ruled myself out,” the former Union minister asserted. The process for filing nominations for the election will be held from September 24 to 30. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8 and the election, if required, will be held on October 17. The results will be out on October 19. Talking about the Yatra and whether it marks a decisive phase in the battle of ideologies, Tharoor said the battle is an ongoing one.
”We have lost a few skirmishes but in many ways it is an existential struggle we are engaged in, to defend the idea of India enshrined in the Constitution. As long as we survive, there will be many other seemingly decisive phases,” he said.
”But whatever happens, we should never surrender to majoritarianism,” Tharoor asserted.
The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is one important contribution to this ongoing effort, he said, adding that he doesn’t think the struggle for India’s soul will cease after the Yatra ends.
Asked if the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ could have the same socio-political impact as BJP leader L K Advani’s Rath Yatra in the early 1990s albeit for a different cause, Tharoor said it is possible, but its impact can only be gauged as it goes on.
”I hope it will attract large numbers of people to the ideals and values the Congress stands for, values that unite our people around the idea of an inclusive India,” he said. On whether the Yatra would get popular traction among the common people, Tharoor said no one undertakes such an ambitious nationwide march without expectations of success.
”But while our planning and preparations have been thorough, it is fair to say that we cannot underestimate the ruling forces,” he said. ”If they see the Yatra having a major impact I have no doubt about their capacity to distract the country in other directions. We should soldier on undeterred,” Tharoor said. On whether he sees the Yatra as a beginning of the party’s revival, Tharoor said he certainly hopes so.
”While we are working with everyone, including other parties, non-political individuals and civil society groups, any such major activity undertaken by a political party undoubtedly has a political message. And that message is that we are the party that can unite India,” he said. Though the yatra will be formally launched at a rally in Kanyakumari on Wednesday, it will actually begin at 7 am on September 8 when Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders will embark on the journey on foot. From Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, it will move northwards and pass through several states to culminate in Srinagar.