How Bharat Jodo Yatra will impact Karnataka elections 2023 – Times of India

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Naresh Arora, Political Strategist, and Director DesignBoxed
The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka should be seen as the kickstarting of the Congress election campaign in the state.
The month of October 2022 should be seen as the kickstart of the Congress party’s election campaign in the state. The 2023 assembly elections are about 7 months away.
Before a round of intense weight lifting, it is good to start with a warm up session. The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka has, above all, been a warm up exercise for the Karnataka Congress. The party is gearing up for the big election.
One of the most under-rated aspects of an election campaign is the readiness of party workers and cadres. This important aspect does not make headlines, but just see for example how much work the BJP puts into strengthening its booth management. It is not enough to have party workers. Their enthusiasm, their willingness to put life and sound in an election campaign, is an immeasurable factor in election victories.
The best thing the Bharat Jodo Yatra has done for the Karnataka Congress is that it has energised the party workers, enthused them about the Congress mission. The sense of mission and purpose, coupled with the physically demanding format of the padayatra, walking many kilometres a day, has filled party workers and leaders with the kind of energy an election campaign demands.
Karnataka is different
The meticulous execution of the Yatra in Karnataka by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Sh. DK Shivakumar has set the standard that Congress workers expect to see in the election campaign as well. The Bharat Jodo Yatra had its own Karnataka-specific website that anyone could register on, and through the website be facilitated to walk with the Yatra. A separate, small web campaign invited unemployed youth to interact with Rahul Gandhi. Out of 11,000 applications from just 7 districts, 2000 were selected for the event. As a result, the unemployed youth who interacted with Rahul Gandhi were genuinely unemployed youth, not party workers as often happens in such events.
In any state assembly election, we see the BJP exploit the weaknesses of the Congress party at the national level. So just because the Congress has done badly in one round of assembly elections, the BJP is able to use that to create a perception that Congress is weak. However, Karnataka is different, and has historically been one of the strongest states for the Congress party. Even Indira Gandhi contested form Karnataka. The Bharat Jodo Yatra and the massive crowds it has attracted have come as a reminder for everyone that the Congress in Karnataka is not the weakened Congress of some north Indian state. It is a very different beast and cannot be underestimated.
It is to be noted that none of the BJP’s usual personal attacks on Rahul Gandhi have worked during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, at least not in Karnataka. The re-assertion of Rahul Gandhi as a popular mass leader — the face of the party that wins 12 crore votes on a bad day — helps strengthen the Karnataka BJP which will be championing Narendra Modi as the answer to local anti-incumbency.
The myth of factionalism
When it comes to the Karnataka Congress, the media has this obsession of seeing a factional fight between Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar. Their joint efforts and participation in the Bharat Jodo Yatra have shown the other side of this ‘factionalism’ narrative. The multiplicity of ambitious mass leaders is actually a strength of the party. Different leaders bring in votes from different regions, caste groups and other demographic variables. Like the message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Karnataka Congress is also a picture of Unity in Diversity. After all, none of the leaders are sulking and sitting at home, leave alone deserting the party for greener (or shall we say more saffron) pastures.
DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah have in fact been working together all throughout in a seamless jugalbandi, complimenting each other. There can’t be a better example of this effort than their contribution to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The party also managed to give various leaders due importance by giving them important responsibilities. We have seen this in prior campaigns like the Mekedatu Padayatra demanding a dam. The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a big party campaign in Karnataka, which enabled the party to give all senior leaders important responsibility. Be it travel, food, or logistics, there was enough to do for someone or the other, and it has been going smoothly.
The various committees formed to execute the Bharat Jodo Yatra have contributed to the party’s readiness for the election campaign ahead by demonstrating that team work is possible despite the media narrative of factionalism. The Bharat Jodo Yatra has thus demolished the myth of ‘in fighting’ within the Congress. If the BJP and JD(S) are banking on this, they’re going to be surprised.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka has also focused on the 3 key issues in the state: unemployment, price rise and farmers’ issues. By doing so, it has kickstarted the election season in the state. The BJP and the JDS, clearly feeling the need to respond to the agenda set by the Bharat Jodo Yatra, have announced their own Yatras in response.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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