Bharat Jodo Yatra in Telangana: Can Rahul Gandhi unite the fractious state unit of the Congress?

Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra arrives at a time Congress morale is low and the party is struggling in the Munugode bypoll.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Oct 22, 2022 | 3:57 PMUpdatedOct 22, 2022 | 3:57 PM

Crowds at Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka on Sunday. (Supplied)

Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s 3,500-km walkathon against divisive politics and hate, is all set to enter Telangana on Sunday, 23 October.

The yatra arrives at a time the party in the state is facing an existential crisis and floundering in the face of daily pincer attacks by the TRS and the BJP

Rahul Gandhi’s yatra, after crossing the Krishna river, will reach Makthal in Narayanpet district in Telangana at 10 am. Then it will take a Diwali break till 26 October.

It will resume on 27 October and traverse Makthal, Narayanpet, Devarakadra, Mahabubnagar and Jadcharla in the erstwhile Mahabubnagar district.

The party is making all arrangements to ensure that there would be a good turnout for the Yatra. Congress leaders are straining themselves to mobilise at least 20,000 to 30,000 people for the padayatra in different stretches.

Yatra attracts attention

Rahul Gandhi has attracted a lot of interest and response in all the states that he has been through till now, even in Andhra Pradesh where the people had buried the party in a hole deeper than the Mariana trench eight years ago, after the party’s matriarch Sonia Gandhi divided the state in 2014.

At that time, though the party knew it would lose Andhra Pradesh, it never thought that it would lose Telangana as well, as it believed that the Telangana people would reward it for handing them a separate state with a cash cow like Hyderabad as its capital.

The TRS, riding on the crest of the Telangana movement, however, stormed to power, stealing the thunder from the Congress and leaving it so badly bruised that it has not yet fully recovered.

But dyed-in-the-wool party workers still hope against hope that the Wayanad MP’s visit to the state would help the party grow green shoots.

Their confidence stems from the belief that the taproot of the party is still healthy and intact. They surmise that the party is only going through a rough patch and that it would rise like the proverbial Phoenix when favourable conditions return.

Overshadowed by TRS, BJP

But, with the kind of high-voltage politics that BJP and the TRS are indulging in by virtue of being ruling parties in the Centre and the state, the Congress finds the going very tough now.

Many Congress sympathisers believe it is unfortunate that the party should consider winning the upcoming Munugode by-election as the challenge of its lifetime after being in power for decades in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.

The other day, PCC president A Revanth Reddy’s appeal to party workers to fan out in the Munugode Assembly segment had a touch of desperation.

He even broke down saying: “We have no money, but we have a good heart to serve the people. The party workers should reach out to every household in Munugode and seek votes. If you are hungry, please request the people to feed you. They will oblige you as they are very generous. If we have to match TRS and BJP in resources, we have to become highway robbers, which we cannot.”

Related: Congress MP says party prospects dim in Munugode

Hope of recovery

Congress leaders believe that there is still scope for the party to show some signs of recovery when Rahul Gandhi steps foot on Telangana soil. Though he will not touch Munugode, his very presence in Telangana at a time when campaigning is going on fiercely, would lift the sagging morale of the party workers and it is expected they would put up a spirited fight against the two goliaths in the fray.

The only trump card the Congress has is that it has a woman as its candidate and hopes to connect with women voters for their support.

Rahul Gandhi’s yatra is expected to have a salutary effect on a party riven by schisms. Already a lot of damage has been done to the party with groups pulling it in different directions with the result that the party had not been able to present a picture that it is a cohesive whole, getting ready to take on the TRS and the BJP in the next elections.

The most painful of all the factors is that of Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, MP from Bhongir, who has been working against the interest of the party in Munugode all because he has a running feud with Congress state chief Revanth Reddy.

The hope is that Rahul Gandh’s presence would make the sparring leaders bury the hatchet and work shoulder-to-shoulder to take the Congress forward.