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‘Bharat Jodo Yatra is not an outreach programme’: Pawan Khera

Print edition : Nov 10, 2022 T+T-

‘Bharat Jodo Yatra is not an outreach programme’: Pawan Khera

Pawan Khera.

Pawan Khera. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The Congress spokesperson says the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a movement of Indians to reclaim India.

Rajasthan goes to the polls next year as does Karnataka.  In June, the Congress appointed Pawan Khera as chairman of the party’s Media and Publicity Committee. A popular face in the media, Khera has been accompanying Rahul Gandhi on the 3,500-kilometre Bharat Jodo Yatra. Khera describes the yatra as a movement of Indians to reclaim India, with the Congress serving as a facilitator. In an interview to Frontline, he spoke about why the yatra should not be seen solely from the point of view of elections. Excerpts:

What does the Bharat Jodo Yatra hope to achieve in concrete terms?
Processes do not have an immediate tangible outcome. The Bharat Jodo Yatra seeks to highlight the record unemployment, stark economic disparities, social polarisation, and over-centralisation of political power that India is witnessing. This isn’t just an outreach programme of a political party. The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a movement of Indians to reclaim India. The Congress is a facilitator of the movement.
There has been criticism on the unequal spread of the campaign, with the duration of the yatra being longer in the southern States than in the north, where the party historically has had a sizeable organisational and electoral presence.
The criticism on the duration in the various States is misplaced. How else does one do a Kanyakumari to Kashmir yatra?

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If the Congress’ main opposition in ideological and other terms is the BJP, does it not make political sense to regain lost ground and concentrate on States where the party needs to rejuvenate itself?
To bring in elections as an objective of the yatra would be to limit the scope and vision of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The Finance Minister reportedly said that the reforms of the 1990s were half-baked. The BJP wants to implement comprehensive reforms. Does your party agree with the BJP formula of reforms or is it time to undo the baggage of the legacy of economic reforms that many believe has brought the Congress to this pass and is responsible for the state of the economy today?
The Finance Minister’s comments on the 1991 reforms come from a person who has zero understanding of either the economy or reforms. We have seen the mess she has made of an economy that not just saw double digit GDP but also saw 23 million people being lifted above the poverty line under Dr Manmohan Singh.
What has changed in the Indian masses that they will gravitate towards the Congress? The Aam Aaadmi Party is, rightly or wrongly, seen as an alternative to the Congress in BJP-ruled States. Then there are the regional parties.
Voters have a right to experiment with their choices. Having given two opportunities to the Narendra Modi government, people feel cheated when they see the 45-year record high unemployment; when they see the government indulging in full-time blitzkrieg and part-time governance; when they see insensitive handling of dissent; when they see state-sponsored polarisation at play.

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The organisational elections have also become a talking point. The timing coincides with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Though the two seem unconnected, is it possible the yatra may have an inadvertent effect in sorting out the grey areas in leadership issues?
The Bharat Jodo Yatra and the election of the Congress president have no bearing on each other whatsoever.