road into 2024 has to pass through the political, economic and social arch of our country.
Not many will disagree that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is the flavor of the season. It has passed through 12 states in 150 days. Questions like how many kilometers does Rahul walk in a day, what are the people walking with him say, how do such a big bunch of walkers move each single day, who all does Rahul Gandhi meet, who has walked with him when, like Ex Spy chief Daulat or Raghuram Rajan or Swara Bhaskar, or Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s great grand son or some sports star etc etc, are a matter of inquisitiveness. Mainstream media may be vary and frugal in covering the response that the yatra is attracting, but social media which is also the alternative media is agog with the optics and popularity of yatra and its ramifications. The fact that it was endorsed by some BJP religious heads may make one wonder about the directions of winds blowing.
At the Congress Headquarters I asked some leaders, will this exercise turn into votes/electoral advancements come 2024, they said, it is not a political yatra. That it is more about connecting with people on ground, Rahulji giving an audience to their problems, conveying the message that hate is being spread consciously. They agree that Congress is lacking organizational structure at the grassroot level which is key to be an equal player in 2024. Another question is, has Rahul Gandhi evolved politically with the yatra! Maybe yes. Afterall he has learnt a lot meeting and talking to people of all walks of life, from farmers to students to children to celebrities to even YouTuber journalists who are not a part of the mainstream media and have suffered for telling truth to power.
His interactions are endearing to people as when he speaks to them he sounds like their own opposed to his image of a blue blooded prince, but his content and body language betrays his political naivety and lack of shrewdness which is the hallmark of his direct opponent. Is BJP rattled! Seems so. Or why should the Home Minister frantically in his Tripura speech which is elections bound declare the opening of Ram Temple on Jan 1, 2024.
Well, the cards for 2024 are clearly being set. Rahul Gandhi is surely touching the nerve of the nation with his direct contact with the people of India. The moot question is, is the BJP losing its sheen in 2023 and people looking for an alternative that only Congress as a national party can still give, as the regional parties are happy being confined to their region. Will the country put its faith in Rahul Gandhi vis a vis Modi for a shift from the politics of polarization! Will Modi, a year later still remain the trump card of BJP!
Where is India heading! The recent verdict by Supreme Court on demonization totally trashes the difficulties and sufferings of people queuing up for days & nights. How one flawed & unilateral decision can plunge the nation into immense suffering is something that history will not forgive. Communal polarization is only tearing apart the social fabric of our nation. Media that was supposed to be the mirror for showing truth and facts, is a gagged animal ready to bend backwards. Questioning the government is a big risk. Hundreds and thousands left in the abyss of unemployment, rampant crime is going unpunished as the criminals of rape, loot and mindless arson are let on bail freely. Horrendous cases like Bilkis Bano verdict, Lakhimpur Kheri case, Father Stanley, Journalist Kappan’s detention are enough examples of a system gone wrong. Constitutional institutions stand tamed. With Agniveer, Army which was one of the biggest recruiters, thousands of jobs have been lost along with the dent it may give to the only professional army of the world. Reservations in jobs have reached its mindless limit which has contributed to huge opportunities in government sector. Poverty levels have increased with 80% population in this bracket. The worrying trend of wealth accumulated in few hands has plummeted India at the bottom of wealth distribution index. Inflation is hurting everyone’s pockets. PSU’s have been sold. Fuel prices are literally unaffordable. Parliament winds up without completing its full session. Opposition’s voices are not allowed their space as their leaders say they have to come on streets to people. In a recent example in the capital, slum dwellers were heartlessly asked to leave their dwellings exposing them to the brutal chilly winter. What does a common man expect the least from a government! Food, shelter, security and a job. Is it asking for too much from a government whose Head of state travels offshores at the drop of a hat. A la Diplomacy. No surprises, India is being increasingly called a Democratic Autocracy.
But I do see a bright spot too. India’s relations and standing in the international arena which indicates we are pretty well poised on the global stage. Our nuanced stand on Ukraine Russia war, our pitch at UNSC reforms, EAM Jaishankar’s unequivocal thrashing of Pakistan as a terror hub, the West’s energy trade lopsided preferences and dictates to India, our role and views on Afghanistan have been the brightest spots of our global positioning. Our energy purchase from Russia, trade with sanctioned countries, balancing power pendulum with US and Russia as well as our role in Covid vaccine diplomacy has defined the direction of our foreign policy. G20 is an opportunity for India to showcase our culture, history, the rich heritage to the world. China is but an aberration. 17 rounds of talks on border areas haven’t worked out. Salami slicing in both eastern & western borders as a strategic ploy is a successful model by the eastern neighbor.
The year 2022 will be remembered for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that left the world topsy turvy. Supply chain disruptions lead to energy and food crisis in the world at large. After losing out on Afghanistan and leaving it to its own one night the US nosedived into Ukraine just to see the war prolong making it more brutal and polarized by doing exactly what Putin would do anything to deter…..of NATO coming right at its door. The war has forced the world to explore currency swapping, something unimaginable just some time back.
At the end of the day its how our nation is faring and how its people are doing. When pulse of the common man is overlooked for electoral gains, by hook or crook to be in power its a road leading to what most autocracies are about.
The winter of 2023 hopefully will be a harbinger of another year of hope, equality & brotherhood for what India stands and holds a unique position in the world.