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Bharat Jodo Yatra, a much-needed shot in Congress arm

As the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi culminated in Srinagar on Sunday amid much fanfare, many politicians and analysts felt it revealed the current mood of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Though the Congress leaders have been claiming that there was nothing political about the yatra, it was evident on ground that local party leadership used every opportunity to convey a message about the Congress and its relevance in J&K politics.

As per political analysts, the Congress is at its lowest point in J&K, especially after former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the party along with hundreds of Congress workers.

As multiple leaders have rejoined the Congress during the yatra itself, many see it as the revival of national mainstream politics in Kashmir.

Post-abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two union territories, this yatra is considered as one of the first big political activities in the region by a top national politician.

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In J&K, Rahul touched nine districts and spoke to a cross-section of people besides vouching for the restoration of its statehood.

PDP president Mehbooba, who along with her daughter and mother had participated in the yatra on Saturday, termed it a breather in J&K politics.

“Rahul Gandhi’s yatra comes like a breath of fresh air in Kashmir. It is for the first time since 2019 that Kashmiris have come out of their homes in such massive numbers. It was a great experience to walk with him,” the PDP leader had tweeted.

The participation of National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah also passed on a strong message that in future, the Congress could act as a binding force between the PDP and the NC – two big regional political parties in J&K.

However, within the PDP and the NC, many leaders are opposed to the idea of forming an electoral alliance like in 2020, when the PAGD had won several DDC seats in J&K.

Meanwhile, the opponents see nothing significant in this yatra. “Rahul Gandhi is a big leader. People came to see him like they come to see any other national leader. It won’t hold any significance on the ground in J&K, where the Congress has been reduced to a small political group,” said Omar Kakroo, a senior Democratic Azad Party leader.

Congress leaders have admitted that the yatra has galvanised the party cadre in J&K. “Though the yatra wasn’t about political gains at all, it galvanised our cadres,” said former JKPCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir.

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Another young politician of Kashmir, Waheed ur Rehman Parra, termed the yatra in Kashmir a revival of national mainstream activity. “It has definitely revealed the mood of people who are feeling choked. People still have expectations that the larger idea of India will reclaim itself. Kashmir wants a normal political conversation to start,” he added.

Rahul has now become the second national leader after abrogation of Article 370, who held a big programme in J&K in which there was good participation from the locals.

Last year, thousands had also turned up to attend the rallies of Union home minister Amit Shah at Rajouri and Baramulla.

“The biggest success of this (Bharat Jodo Yatra) rally is that locals were holding national flags without any force or security. This is what the yatra achieved in Kashmir,” Congress spokesperson Sheikh Amir said.

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