Not so long ago, around the middle of last year, there used to be mention of Mamta Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, K Chandra Sekhar Rao, Mayawati etc. in general public discussions on oppositions’ potential Prime Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming general election next year in 2024. Particularly, Nitish Kumar, since leaving alliance with BJP, was fast emerging as a potential national leader. KCR even made a trip to Patna and held a joint press conference with Nitish Kumar. Within the Congress also there were lots of noises from the so-called G-23 and emerging leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Ghulam Nabi Azad. People used to talk of oppositions’ support to Mamta Banerjee or Nitish Kumar to enable them to emerge as oppositions’ face in fight against BJP. Rahul Gandhi’s name would not usually come up as a serious prime ministerial candidate in political discussions.
Less than six months later, in early January 2023, scenario seems to have much evolved and unravelling further with the progress in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Having walked about 3000 km (which reminds of ‘How the Steel Was Tempered‘) in Southern and Central Indian hinterlands since he started Yatra in September 2022, the bearded Rahul Gandhi is bracing chilly north Indian winter cold in his trademark T-shirt surrounded by tricolour waving crowd, now passing Uttar Pradesh towards Kashmir garnering visible public support and participations by notable non-BJP politicians and public figures. Yesterday, he was joined by India’s former spy chief AS Dulat, Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi and Jammu & Kashmir National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah. Uttar Pradesh leaders like Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav extended their support and warm wishes but did not join the march due possibly to political compulsions. Mehbooba Mufti of Jammu & Kashmir’s PDP has confirmed her participation in the last leg of march in Kashmir.
With progress of Rahul Gandhi’s march, non-BJP politicians across the board seems to gravitating and aligning towards him thus enhancing his political goodwill and prospect to emerge as oppositions’ consensus prime ministerial candidate. He certainly seems to representing and giving voices to a section of Indian people, particularly those who are unhappy, for whatever reasons, with the current ruling dispensation led by PM Narendra Modi.
As someone said, Bharat Jodo Yatra was designed to help Rahul Gandhi emerge as a serious politician of national standing. But more importantly, his Yatra seems to be giving vents to sections of people dissatisfied with BJP.