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Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra Won't Be Like BJY: What's Working for it & What Isn't?

The 66-day Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra will be judged by a very different yardstick from the BJY 2022-23.

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The Congress has embarked upon the second Bharat Jodo Yatra - a year after completing the first one. Named as the 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra', the 66-day Yatra has begun from Manipur in Northeastern India and it will proceed westwards, culminating in Maharashtra.

Will it help the Congress, and by extension the INDIA alliance, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections? What's working in favour of the Yatra and what isn't?

We will try and answer some of these questions in this article.

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What's Working in Favour of the Yatra?

1. The BJY Brand Has Already Been Established

Due to the first Yatra, BJY as a brand already has some recall value in the minds of the public. The BJNY won't have to cross that hurdle. The idea of one end of the country to another is itself a significant exercise that will get talked about.

2. It May Give Congress Some Visibility

At a time when the government is likely to dominate the headlines, through the Ram Mandir consecration and then the Union Budget, the BJNY could help the Congress get at least some visibility and avoid being drowned in the media space. That could still happen, given the nature of political coverage in TV channels. But the previous BJY was a success at least from the point of view of optics and visuality. Perhaps the second Yatra may also be able to achieve that.

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3. It Will Be a Morale Booster for Congress Cadres and Anti-BJP Voters in General

Sources in the Congress say that the morale in the party did hit a low after the defeats in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram in December 2023. The party had hoped to win three states in that electoral cycle but ended up with just one, Telangana.

The Congress lost all the three states where it was directly up against the BJP.

The signal that these defeats sent is that if the Congress can't win even a state election against the BJP, it can't have much hope in the national election where PM Narendra Modi will directly be on the ticket.

The Yatra may help boost the morale of Congress cadres. It may also help consolidate anti-BJP voters in general as it would send them a message that the Congress is trying to fight it out on the ground.

The Congress held a meeting with representatives of several civil society organisations ahead of the Yatra and like BJY their support could help in the BJNY as well.

4. Beginning from Manipur a Good Decision

The ethnic violence in Manipur has still not abated even eight months after it erupted. According to estimates at least 175 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced from their homes.

As many in the state saw the state government as partisan, Manipur needed a healing touch from the central government. But that didn't happen. It is therefore a good gesture on the part of the Congress to begin the BJNY from Manipur. Any effort to 'unite' the country, must begin with easing tensions in Manipur.

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What's Not Working in Favour of the BJNY?

1. It Will be Judged by a Tougher Yardstick

The BJY came in between electoral cycles. Though the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections took place while the Yatra was on, they weren't part of the route. Therefore, the success of the Yatra couldn't directly be judged in terms of electoral results.

The BJNY won't have this luxury as it is taking place barely a few months before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress' argument during the BJY that "It's not aimed at the elections" won't cut ice in the case of the BJNY. To be fair, unlike the BJY, Congress leaders aren't actively trying to insulate it from electoral outcomes.

If the Congress' seat share doesn't increase substantially in the Lok Sabha elections, questions will be raised about whether the Yatra was a good idea.

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2. Messaging is Not Clear

The messaging of BJNY is a bit vague from the point of view of elections. 'Justice' and 'unity' aren't tangible concepts and it isn't easy to mobilise votes around them.

Electorally, it would have been better had the Yatra focused more sharply around issues like livelihood and employment.

Though the Congress claims that these issues will also be raised during the Yatra, they aren't part of the Yatra's name or central message. So merely being talked about during the Yatra won't suffice.

3. What About the INDIA Bloc?

The BJNY is taking place without any direct co-ordination with the Congress' allies in the INDIA bloc. There is a risk of sending confused messages to the electorate. It would seem that it is the Congress' way of projecting Rahul Gandhi as the face of the Opposition, without keeping INDIA bloc partners in the loop.

Then there is the specific issue of Uttar Pradesh. If one carefully looks at the route of the BJNY, its route in states like West Bengal and Bihar - both ruled by INDIA bloc partners - isn't very long.

However, the Congress has taken a large detour by extending the Yatra's route in Uttar Pradesh. It goes northwards for several hundred kilometers northwards instead of continuing westwards.

This is being seen as the Congress' ploy to drive a harder bargain during the seat-sharing talks with Akhilesh Yadav.

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4. Use of Resources

A large Yatra like the BJNY involves huge resources. As it is there is a massive mismatch of resources between the BJP and the Congress. Therefore, there are sections within the Congress who argue that the party needs to use the resources more strategically in the run-up to the elections and that a large exercise like the BJNY will be a burden on the party's coffers.

Since the mobilisation for the Yatra would be the responsibility of state Congress units, it would also mean that the Congress units in the Yatra route as well as the team coordinating the Yatra will have to work continuously from now until the elections.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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