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Jatra Boost For Congress

Bhubaneswar: It seems political parties have taken cue from a particular aspect of human lifestyle – walking – which is generally believed to make one healthier. Almost all parties are resorting to foot-march, apparently with the mission of making their outfits healthier than the present condition.  

The foot-marches undertaken by the ruling BJD and the opposition Congress in Odisha seem to be endeavours to improve the health of their respective parties. It is believed that Mahatma Gandhi had united the entire nation and motivated people across the country to fight against British Rule. And many a march he undertook apparently helped him stitch together differences while uniting groups with incompatible idiosyncrasies.

Many parties in modern India have also followed suit, and with quite success too. LK Advani’s Ratha Jatra which helped catapult BJP to a significant height in Indian polity is a glaring example.

Now, Congress leader and Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi is out on the streets and going on “Bharat Jodo Jatra”. As Rahul’s Jatra does not cover Odisha, the local Congress leaders and the Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) have also launched a Pada Jatra (March on foot) from October 31, the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi.

The objective of the OPCC led by Sarat Pattanayak is very simple. The party, which already has a pan-Odisha network and disturbed in the last two decades, needs to be connected, said PCC spokesperson. As BJD and BJP have captured its place in Odisha, the Odisha Congress is now out to revive its mass appeal through such Pada Jatra.

Over two decades, the Congress has utterly failed to take advantage of the ‘love and hate’ relationship between the ruling BJD and opposition BJP in Odisha.  And the party’s Bharat Jodo Jatra is likely to be a booster for the oldest party in Odisha, which remained out of power in the state since 2000, particularly after Naveen Patnaik’s entry into politics.

The Congress lost a golden opportunity in 2009 when the nine-year-old BJD-BJP alliance broke. The then Congress leaders remained silent and indirectly supported the BJD with an aim to defeat the BJP. While Congress gained nothing, the BJP emerged as the state’s principal opposition and pushed the country’s oldest political party to the third position in the 2019 general elections for Lok Sabha and State Assembly. Its impact was also felt in subsequent rural and urban polls where Congress’ position downed to third place.

It appears that the Congress leadership has done nothing to gain from the situation apart from shouting the slogan often that both the BJD and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. It seems people have realized the fact behind the Congress slogan and found that both the BJD and BJP were working in tandem after elections and engaged in shadow boxing during elections. Still, the Congress failed to take advantage, mostly due to its internal factions.       

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) on October 31 launched its Bharat Jodo Yatra from the Indira Gandhi Maidan in Bhubaneswar, where Indira Gandhi delivered her last public speech. She had spoken that her last drop of blood would go for the country’s unity.

Apart from Mr.Pattanayak, AICC general secretary and Odisha in-charge Dr A Chella Kumar also joined the Jatra, which is a part of the Congress’ national campaign for the country’s unity launched by Rahul Gandhi.

So far, the Congress’ Bharat Jodo Jatra has crossed two major districts like Khurda and Cuttack and entered Jajpur. While more than 600 party workers joined the Jatra on the first day, the size of the Jatra goes on increasing as it moves on.

The Jatra will cover 25 of the 30 districts of Odisha covering 2,250 kilometres in 100 days, which is described as the biggest ever Pada Jatra in the history of Odisha after Independence.

When Rahul Gandhi launched his Bharat Jodo Jatra to connect with the masses on September 7, no one had thought it would cover such a long journey. The Bharat Yoda Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi has covered more than 1,400 kilometres.

Though it is a tough question whether the Bharat Jodo Jatra will bring Congress back to power in Odisha in 2024, OPCC President Sarat Pattanayak expressed optimism. “Now, we have only nine MLAs and the party is hopeful to increase it to 90,” Pattnayak said, adding that this jatra will certainly help the party expose the ‘unholy’ alliance between the BJD and the BJP. Once the people recognize the real face of both the BJD and the BJP, the task becomes much easier for Congress, he said.

All along the Jatra, Mr.Pattanayak tells people that like the BJP, the Naveen Patnaik government has also failed in providing employment to the people of the state, unable to check price rise and joins the Modi government in all the anti-people programs. “We are mostly highlighting the price rise and unemployment issue during the Jatra,” Mr.Pattanayak said, adding that the party was also focusing on other burning issues facing the country today.

This apart, the party also attempts to connect more youths, both men and women, with Congress as this category of voters have tilted towards either the BJD or the BJP. The party also tells the state that all youths in Odisha do not want to be contractors and petty businessmen by supporting the BJD or the BJP. Odisha has a number of youths who have self-respect and would not like to follow Gandhian principles as a way of life.

With the party getting acceptance from the people in the first five days of the Jatra, many leaders are optimistic about a visible change once the OPCC completes its 100 days program covering over 2200-kilometre journey.

The ruling BJD, which had initially launched a month-long Jan Sampark Jatra from October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti) has meanwhile extended its program by another fortnight. It is done apparently keeping in view the Congress’ Bharat Jodo Jatra. Like Rahul Gandhi’s program, Sarat Pattnayak’s walkathon is likely to make a difference.