Much of the book focuses on the yatra’s role in empowering marginalised communities.
Much of the book focuses on the yatra’s role in empowering marginalised communities.

'Bharat Jodo Yatra' book review: A comprehensive collection that captures the essence

The book is a comprehensive collection that covers topics ranging from political signalling to upholding fraternity.

Initiated in September 2022, the Bharat Jodo Yatra was conceptualised as a transformative political campaign addressing pressing national issues such as unemployment, poverty and the alleged erosion of constitutional values. More than just a political rally, the yatra sought to foster a direct connection with the Indian populace, aiming to create a platform for the Congress’s inclusive political engagement, especially Rahul Gandhi’s grassroots presence, which counters his derisive portrayal as India’s ‘prince’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

In Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reclaiming India’s Soul, editors Pushparaj Deshpande and Ruchira Chaturvedi compile a detailed account of Rahul ’s audacious 4,000-km journey from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. The book delves into a range of narratives from various contributors, capturing the essence of the yatra and its impact on the socio-political fabric of India.

The book is a comprehensive collection that covers topics ranging from political signalling to upholding fraternity. In a chapter by Mehbooba Mufti and her media adviser Iltija Mufti, the former J&K CM expresses admiration for the Congress and Rahul, implying the PDP’s potential realignment with the national party. In another chapter by Bharat Yatri (participant in the yatra), Dr Anshul Trivedi, a national media panellist for the Congress, asserts that “we need to draw upon our history and rebuild the nation with the idea of Bandhutva or fraternity, rather than Hindutva”. The piece echoes the contemporary relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on poverty and religion.

The yatra is depicted as a resistance against the governmental ethos under the BJP, and highlights a vivid contrast with the Congress embracing a more inclusive approach to politics. Much of the book focuses on the yatra’s role in empowering marginalised communities. Personal stories from participants reveal a journey that was as much about self-discovery and ideological commitment as it was about political mobilisation.

Although the Congress has waned somewhat, due to recent electoral setbacks, the Gandhi family’s enduring legacy within Indian politics remains profound. The book captures Rahul’s transformation throughout the yatra. Initially motivated by a personal quest to understand his connection to India, his personal interactions characterised by his desire to listen to and amplify the voices of the disenfranchised, are highlighted in the book, where he poetically ends the introductory chapter with the words: “How simple it had turned out to be. I had been looking in the river for that which could only be found in the sea.” However, Rahul’s next instalment, the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra (Uniting India for Justice March) in January 2024, aimed at mobilising support before elections, falls short of his Bharat Jodo Yatra’s success. It coincided with INDI Alliance members parting ways. Notably, Nitish Kumar resigned and formed a new government with the BJP’s support, while Mamata Banerjee chose to contest the elections independently in West Bengal.

In the foreword entitled

‘A People’s Revolution to Reunite India’, Mallikarjun Kharge, senior leader and current president of the Congress, reflects on the historical significance of padyatras and satyagrahas in India, emphasising their role in connecting with people and effecting socio-political change. Drawing on the philosophical underpinnings of Karma Yoga, the narrative also intertwines the physical journey with a spiritual quest for truth and national rejuvenation. This approach is portrayed as reclaiming India’s soul through a collective awakening to the nation’s ethos. The book also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the meticulous planning and execution of the yatra, while emphasising the role of civil society and the strategic use of digital media to counteract the alleged hostile mainstream media narratives. It outlines how the yatra has been instrumental in training a new generation of politically committed young individuals. While the immediate goal may have been political mobilisation in the face of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the narrative emphasises its broader significance.

Bharat Jodo Yatra does not shy away from addressing the challenges faced by acknowledging the scepticism about the yatra’s tangible impacts, particularly in terms of electoral gains. However, it argues that the accurate measure of its success lies in its ability to foster a substantive dialogue on national unity and social justice, transcending mere political calculations. It is a recommended read for those interested in the dynamics of Indian politics, the power of mass mobilisation, and the process of ideological resurgence in the world’s largest democracy.

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reclaiming India’s Soul

By: Pushparaj Deshpande, Ruchira Chaturvedi

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 372

Price: Rs 499

The New Indian Express