The 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' could achieve both "Bharat jodo" and "Congress jodo" as it could also unite Congressmen and women across the country around the party's values and ideals as well as service to the people, senior leader Shashi Tharoor said on Tuesday, 6 September.
Tharoor, who is said to be contemplating running for the post of Congress president, also expressed hope that many leaders would contest the upcoming elections, giving a wide choice to the electors, and stressed he has neither ruled himself in nor out.
In an interview with PTI a day before the launch of the 3,570 km-long 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Tharoor said the message is also that the Congress is the party that can unite India and if the public is sufficiently inspired by this message, it will indeed inaugurate the revival of the party.
Asked about former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and other critics' swipe that the party should undertake "Congress jodo" instead of "Bharat jodo", the Thiruvananthapuram MP said, "Ghulam Nabi Sahib is a respected elder and I do not wish to comment on his specific remarks."
"But I will say that the Bharat Jodo Yatra could also unite Congressmen and women across the country around our values and ideals as well as around service to the people, by raising issues that matter to the people and showing them that we are fighting for them," he said.
"Then it could be both 'Bharat Jodo' and 'Congress jodo'," Tharoor added.
'Welcome a Party Election, But Do Not Declare my Candidacy'
Asked about the possibility of him running for the post of the Congress president, Tharoor said, "I have only welcomed the fact that an election will be held. I believe that is very good for the party."
After all, which other political party has had an open election for its top post among such a large electorate of almost 10,000 voters, he asked.
"Of course it is gratifying that this general statement of democratic principle has immediately led to large numbers of people around the country welcoming the prospect of my contesting. But as I have made it clear, I have not declared my candidacy," Tharoor said.
Pointing out that the notification of such an election is only happening on September 22, he said it means colleagues still have three weeks to think about whether they would like to join the fray.
"I hope many will contest in order to give the membership a wide choice. So far I have neither ruled myself in nor ruled myself out," the former Union minister asserted.
Talking about the Yatra and whether it marks a decisive phase in the battle of ideologies, Tharoor said the battle is an ongoing one.
"We have lost a few skirmishes but in many ways it is an existential struggle we are engaged in, to defend the idea of India enshrined in the Constitution. As long as we survive, there will be many other seemingly decisive phases," he said.
"But whatever happens, we should never surrender to majoritarianism," Tharoor asserted.
The 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' is one important contribution to this ongoing effort, he said, adding that he doesn't think the struggle for India's soul will cease after the Yatra ends.
'A Party That Can Unite India'
Asked if the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' could have the same sociopolitical impact as BJP leader L K Advani's Rath Yatra in the early 1990s albeit for a different cause, Tharoor said it is possible, but its impact can only be gauged as it goes on.
"I hope it will attract large numbers of people to the ideals and values the Congress stands for, values that unite our people around the idea of an inclusive India," he said.
On whether the Yatra would get popular traction among the common people, Tharoor said no one undertakes such an ambitious nationwide march without expectations of success.
"But while our planning and preparations have been thorough, it is fair to say that we cannot underestimate the ruling forces," he said.
"If they see the Yatra having a major impact I have no doubt about their capacity to distract the country in other directions. We should soldier on undeterred," Tharoor said.
On whether he sees the Yatra as a beginning of the party's revival, Tharoor said he certainly hopes so.
"While we are working with everyone, including other parties, non-political individuals and civil society groups, any such major activity undertaken by a political party undoubtedly has a political message. And that message is that we are the party that can unite India," he said.
If the public is sufficiently inspired by this message, it will indeed inaugurate the revival of the party, Tharoor said.
Though the 3,570-km yatra from Kanyakumari to Srinagar will be formally launched at a rally in Kanyakumari on Wednesday, it will actually begin at 7 am on September 8 when Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders will embark on the journey on foot.
The Yatra will start from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and then move northwards passing through Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Nilambur, Mysuru, Bellary, Raichur, Vikarabad, Nanded, Jalgaon, Indore, Kota, Dausa, Alwar, Bulandshahr, Delhi, Ambala, Pathankot, Jammu, and culminate in Srinagar.
The tagline of the yatra is 'Mile Kadam, Jude Watan.'