Rahul Gandhi in J&K sans new narrative

By Sahil Mahajan 

 Rahul  Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra or the foot march for the reunification of India  is in Jammu and Kashmir . This, as per the original schedule of the  yatra , had to be in this Himalayan territory  toward the close of January 2023 .  So, there is nothing extraordinary in this . The yatra is moving as per its schedule , and so is the narrative of Rahul Gandhi , who despite not being the head of the grand old party, is the focal point of the party and politics . In Jammu and Kashmir , the place to which Rahul has traced his familial history , and described his arrival as “ home coming,” has neither reverted to past in its eternity nor shown any vision for future .  This place and the people will  stay where they were before and after the yatra is over – it is supposed to conclude  in Srinagar on January 30 , commemorating the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The past has become sort of liability for Congress and Rahul Gandhi. The party and the former party president are shy of talking of Article 370 , which existed in the constitution of India  until its demise was pronounced on August 5, 2019 by the Union Home Minister . The abrogation of Article 370 has changed the political and economic dynamics of  the Indian politics . It has touched several connotations – social, political, economic and international . 

The Modi government , by one stroke, had sought to cut Kashmir issue , which had become an albatross around the country’s neck for decades  since 1947 , by telling the world that it has resolved the issue at its terms – no third party mediation not even bilateral talks with Pakistan .The government  had  built a successful narrative that had Article 370 that granted special status  and privileges to Jammu and Kashmir not been abolished , it would have led to the flourishment  of anti-India terrorism and the territory  would have slipped out of India’s hands .The success of the narratives of this nature, rich in political connotations , is determined by  the fact that how many people believe it . And the fact is that a vast majority of the people in the country believed it .

Rahul Gandhi knows that  touching this particular issue is a double-edged weapon . He is looking at the nation-wide constituency where the issues of price rise , unemployment, inflation  matter more than anything else . If he tends to bring back Article 370  to the  center of his politics through this yatra , he knows that the country’s majority would not support him. Rather, he is afraid that it might result in a backlash. The countrymen believe that abrogation of Article 370 was a national necessity to save the nation’s integrity and unity . They don’t ask questions  on this . They have been fine tuned to trust that this measure has saved the nation and the people , otherwise Pakistan  would have gobbled the territory .Then , what is Rahul Gandhi talking about  vis-vis- Jammu and Kashmir – retore statehood . This is not a new narrative .

In 2021 , during his visit to  Srinagar, he had stated the same thing that Congress will fight for the  restoration of the statehood , this has  some connection with  August 5, 2019 , the day the state was also dismantled – two union territories of Ladakh and J&K were created out of the  majestic state of Jammu and Kashmir .While announcing the split of the state , the Union Home Minister had announced  that  J&K would be given back its statehood at an appropriate time . Rahul, in a way, is serving a reminder, but the issue with him is that he is not the only one who has raised this issue . There are many other leaders who have made the similar demand . Rahul , to be very frank, has no new narrative for Jammu and Kashmir. He cannot go to past is obvious, but at the same time unless he talks of the past  of J&K, he cannot build a narrative for future . He has traced his familial history , but sans the talk of what Nehru and Indira Gandhi, or for that matter he himself did when Congress was in power leaves him staring at blank.