Skip to main content

Crisis-ridden Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra: 'seeking to gain' from civil society support

By Prem Singh* 

Bharat Jodo Yatra of the Congress Party has become a topic of much discussion in the media. The Congress has announced that it will organise a padyatra (foot march) which will start from Kanyakumari on 7th September and reach Kashmir in 150 days. During the padyatra, a route of about 3500 km will be covered through 12 states and 2 union territories.
The Congress has taken all possible measures for the promotion and success of the yatra, and will continue to do so. One such measure is to involve civil society organizations, specific civil society members, intellectuals, writers, and others, in the yatra. In this connection, 150 civil society organizations attended a meeting convened in Delhi on 22 August.
The names of some civil society members/activists who attended the meeting also appeared in the media. It is said that civil society members/activists who were not called, or could not reach, or reached there but their names did not appear in the media – have become restlessness about their identity.
Quite a few such people willing to join the yatra are looking for ways to come in the limelight. It has been said that the Congress had convened this meeting on the initiative and advice of certain civil society members, in which Rahul Gandhi remained present for some time and interacted with the people.
There is a need to consider the point of civil society members' participation in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. By inviting the civil society members, the Congress has conveyed a message from the very beginning that the party is not prepared to make the yatra effective solely on the strength of its own organization.
If the Congress thinks that members of the civil society will help to create the right atmosphere during the yatra, then this does not seem to be happening. This is so because most of these people are the ones who were initiated by Anna Hazare against the Congress at the 'Ghat of Anti-Corruption'.
They had announced the permanent disappearance of the Congress from the political scene after the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party. One gentleman among them had thrown mooth (magical weapon) wishing the immediate death of the Congress.
The Congress itself is watching the spectacle of its own downfall at the ideological and organizational level. But in the existential crisis in the Congress, the role of people who wished and cursed it for its demise comes second. Modi's 'Congress-mukt Bharat' campaign could be placed at the third place in this case.
It can be easily imagined what kind of atmosphere such people will create in favour of the Congress. If the Congress understands that gathering more and more anti-Modi civil society members will increase the strength and impact in favour of the Congress and the yatra, then it does not seem possible. On the contrary, as has been the case till now, it will provide more fertile ground for Modi.

Real India

So far the Congress has not clarified whether the 'Bharat' of Bharat Jodo Yatra is the new i.e. corporate-India (Nigam-Bharat), or the constitutionally accepted 'real' India -- in which thousands die, day and night, in the construction process of 'corporate' India and continue to live on its margins?
Needless to say, this appears to be a yatra for connecting units of corporate-India. Needless to say, corporate-India is already firmly and intrinsically united in itself. It's builders and protectors have made their forts impenetrable against possible attacks.
The Congress, which has been out of power for 13 years, wants to unite this very corporate-India in its favour. Its aspirations and efforts as a political party are obvious. More so, because it has been the party which actually laid the foundation of corporate-India in nineties.
The civil society members who wanted to join the yatra did not raise the question of corporate-India and real India in the meeting of 22nd August. This was obvious because these are the same members of civil society who uphold corporate-India. From the World Social Forum (WSF) to the Anti-corruption Movement/Aam Aadmi Party, they themselves have proved this fact time and again. Now they are again with the Congress. 
Tomorrow, if Kejriwal decides to come into power against the RSS/BJP by pushing the Congress back, these people will quickly go with him. Some regional leaders who strategically oppose the RSS/BJP with the intention of securing their own political power will throw their lot with him as well. In this way the services of such people will always be available for corporate-India.
They are all hidden neo-liberals. The present communal fascism hovering over India is a by-product of neo-liberalism. In fact, these people have taken the resolve not to allow the people of the country to be directly involved in the country's political scenario. That is why their claim on the real India does not have merit. When in a country/society the illusory role of civil society drains away ideology and commitment from politics, such squabbles happen on a daily basis!
It is good for democracy that the Congress has organized Bharat Jodo Yatra. Corporate-India also needs to have some claim on some form of democracy. It is good for politics in general too. Neo-liberal corporate politics in its first phase accelerated the trend of a-politicization among people.
In the second phase, starting around 2010, it started giving rise to the trend of ill-politicization, which was soon fueled by Narendra Modi and his miniature, Arvind Kejriwal. If there are padyatras of political parties in India or state-specific events, there will always be possibilities of some constitutional politicization of citizens.
However, it is difficult to call this yatra of the Congress as ‘Bharat-Yatra’ even in the sense that corporate-India views it. Only 12 states out of 28 and only 2 union territories out of 8 will fall in the way of the yatra. Upon drawing attention to this aspect of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, a Congress leader said that the yatra from South to North can be followed by another yatra from East to West.
If the Congress organizes padyatras across India primarily on the strength of its grassroots workers, and works towards creating a direct dialogue with the people, it will surely find new grassroots workers and sympathizers all over the country. This may put some check to the rapid erosion of the Congress. For the crisis-ridden Congress, this achievement will outweigh the direct political gains.

Penance, tapasya

The issues raised during the yatra – politics of fear, bigotry and prejudice, livelihood-destroying economy, unemployment, rising inequality etc. – are not new. These issues persist in the statements and press conferences of the Congress and some other anti-BJP parties, on social media of the secular camp and in many small magazines.
Members of civil society who will join the yatra without any expectations or resolutions of their own might say that it will be a great achievement to reach out to more and more people about these issues through the yatra. But to say so would be creating further illusions among the public. It will not take long for these 150 days to pass. Notwithstanding the Bharat Jodo Yatra, corporate-India will continue to be controlled and operated by the corporate-communal nexus.
Rahul Gandhi has said that this padyatra is a penance (tapasya) for him, and he is ready for a long fight. Penance is a meaning-laden word. Many other words can be used to describe the importance of the exercise of mobilizing the masses in favour of one's party for the attainment of political power. The use of the word tapasya for this exercise would be called Arth-Sankoch i.e., a lesser meaning of the word.
This word can get a little closer to its meaning if the Congress distributes written pamphlets during the Bharat Jodo Yatra stating that all laws related to education, labour, agriculture and public sectors enacted under the neo-liberal policies in the last 30 years will be repealed as and when the Congress returns to power at the centre, and that all laws that have been made with respect to enterprises and other national assets will be repealed; all policies and laws shall be framed in the light of the 'Directive Principles of State Policy' enshrined in the Constitution of the country; by law no political party/leader will be allowed to make political use of religion; and institutions damaged in the neo-liberal era will be effectively rebuilt so that the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights of a single citizen are not violated.
If this happens, unemployment and economic inequality can be countered after sustained efforts. Simultaneously, a concrete counter-narrative of the RSS/BJP can be created. Then there would be no need to invite separate civil society members/ organizations. Those who genuinely want the restoration of a constitutionally socialist, democratic, secular India, they alone will automatically join the yatra.
*Associated with the socialist movement, former teacher of Delhi University and fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla



Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.