Political commentator and president of Swaraj India, Yogendra Yadav, who has been a participant in the Bharat Jodo Yatra from the beginning, says “the tide is turning”.
He said this with a specific reference to the response the yatra has received in Maharashtra, and even more so, in Indore, which he said is the heart of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He further said that Rahul Gandhi’s “pappu image is shattered for ordinary people”, adding that whether the Congress leader is becoming a “prime ministerial image” is still to be seen and judged.
The country’s foremost psephologist, however, said that there is “no certainty it [the yatra] will translate into votes… you can do a great yatra and do miserably in elections”.
In a 45-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, recorded during the morning break of the yatra on November 27, Yadav spoke at length about the yatra, the impact on the people coming to see it, the security requirements, Gandhi’s speeches, the change in the way he is perceived, and his increased self-assurance and self-confidence.
Most importantly, he also spoke about how the yatra is beginning to change the national narrative and a shift away from the BJP’s dominance in the media to issues of concern such as inflation, inequality, unemployment, etc.
The yatra started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, and reached Indore on November 27.
After saying “the tide is turning”, Yadav added, “I won’t say public opinion has shifted decisively,” but “the climate of loneliness and fear has cracked but not shattered.”
He said that the hundreds of people who are turning up to watch the yatra are saying no to the politics of hate.
He said that he first noticed the change in the response to the yatra in Maharashtra, adding that it acquired a new shape in the state, like, as he put it, “a stream became a river”.
He felt that the “the tide is turning” in Indore, which is the heart of the BJP and, earlier, a Jan Sangh territory; however, he added, it has not turned as of yet.
He went on to say, in his perception, Congress workers are feeling positive and rediscovering the virtues of their party. The party leaders have greater self-confidence. As he put it, the BJP is reactive while the Opposition is now proactive.
He said that earlier people thought of Gandhi as “arrogant, inaccessible and non-serious about politics”. But “now people see those [assumptions] are untrue.”
He added that hereafter, when Gandhi and Narendra Modi have to face each other in elections, the comparison will be less uneven and more equal.
While saying there’s no certainty the yatra may translate into votes, he said, for him, the great impact of the yatra is that “it is giving people the courage to speak”.
He added that “for the Congress, this may not be sufficient but it can bring a narrative shift.” A narrative shift is “necessary but not a sufficient condition to defeat the BJP”, he added.
This narrative shift can end or, at least, dilute the BJP’s dominance in the media, he added.
“Modi presents himself as the only saviour of the country,” but that will now change. As he put it, “the yatra is puncturing that narrative.”