Uttar Pradesh’s top opposition leader may skip the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is set to enter the politically significant state in the first week of January.
The Congress has invited Samajwadi Party Chairman Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party Supreme Leader Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Leader Jayant Chaudhary to join the party in a massive march from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir .
Sources told NDTV that Mr Yadav may not take part in the pilgrimage, but it was unclear if he would send a party leader to the procession. Party spokesman Ghanshyam Tiwari told NDTV that the Samajwadi party supported the idea of Bharat Jodo Yatra but did not want to confuse it by sparking speculation about a possible political alliance.
“The mission of Bharat Jodo is conceived in our constitution, which is the idea of India that we grew up with that BJP tried to break and poison. Bharat Jodo Yatra is a remarkable yatra, but it is not about building political alliances efforts. We don’t want it to be a campaign to build political alliances,” he added.
RLD chief Chaudhary told NDTV he had a prior agreement that he would not be able to attend the parliamentary procession. Party spokesman Rohit Jakhar said the RLD supported the yatra, but added that the march should not be viewed through a political prism. “We are already running the government with Congress in Rajasthan. We are ideologically pro-pilgrimage,” he told NDTV by phone.
Mr Yadav’s Samajwadi party and its ally RLD appear to have opted not to take part in the yatra, as their participation could spark debate over a possible political alliance for the 2024 general election.
Congress’ invitation to the Samawadi party also has political implications. The party realizes that if it wants to make a difference in the 2024 polls, it needs the support of Mr Yadav’s party, currently the largest opposition party in Uttar Pradesh.
But Mr Yadav appears to be choosing a cautious approach. This caution must also be seen against the backdrop of facing electoral defeat in 2017 state polls as the party is tied to Congress. In contrast, the Samajwadi party is alone in the 2022 elections and has achieved its best ever performance in parliamentary polls.
The RLD is not expected to be in the mood to spoil its equation with its allies on the Congress yatra.
Mayawati, whose party is losing ground in the states she once ruled, was sharply critical of Congress in her latest statement. Ahead of the 2022 general election, she has called on people to vote for her party, saying supporting Congress would only split the anti-BJP vote. So it was no surprise that she decided not to join the march led by Rahul Gandhi.
Congressman Salman Khurshid told the media yesterday that the leader of the top opposition party had been invited to the pilgrimage. The march will enter Uttar Pradesh via Ghaziabad on January 3 before re-entering Haryana on its way to its destination, Srinagar.