Here's Why the Jodo-Jodo Gang and Its Exertions Matter

Moderate elements in the majority community are beginning to understand that the BJP’s ultra-nationalist sales pitch is nothing but a reformulation of Mohan Bhagwat’s bluster about Hindus fighting a “1000 year” war against “foreigners” and their “internal enemies”.

Let us recall the early years of the Modi-Shah age. Once the new ruling clique had found its feet, it presented the country with the conjured-up spectre of a ‘tukde-tukde gang’. This ‘discovery’ of a divisive, separatist, and disruptive group was a moment of perfect jugalbandi between the covert instruments of our deep state and the RSS-BJP crowd with its cultivated penchant for conspiracies.

Let us recall how the nation was inundated, day in and day out, with the ghost of these dangerous enemies within. Our patriotic sentiments were cajoled into endorsing a war on these separatist elements, who, it was suggested, were in cahoots with enemies outside.  A gullible media enthusiastically, often nastily, banged the war drums into an ear-shattering crescendo.

It will be useful to recall that appeals to preserving national unity and consolidating our political order have always received unstinted support from all citizens, despite the many persisting fault-lines across the land.

We tend to forget that it was the very idea of a national community forged during the noble freedom struggle that helped the post-1947 political order set up the working arrangements of an Indian state that was both republican and democratic. As it happened, the innate sense of patriotism and the new feeling of partnership in building a new nation combined to prove wrong the many Cassandras who predicted that India would end up getting Balkanised into warring factions. On the contrary, three wars – 1962, 1965 and 1971 – proved that devotion to the nation and its central authority ran deep and wide.

It was against this background of unshakeable national unity and self-confidence in shaping our collective destiny that the post-2014 ruling clique manufactured the ‘tukde-tukde gang.’ With their fabulous gift for propaganda, our new rulers calculatedly crafted a political perception that somehow the non-BJP parties and groups were guilty of countenancing and sustaining this supposedly anti-national group.

Though the Union Home Ministry was to eventually inform the Lok Sabha (in February 2020) that it had no information about any ‘tukde-tukde gang’, the best of marketing techniques were used to drill into our collective psyche the notion that the nation faced a clear and present danger from this inimical quarter. It was, therefore, the Modi regime’s national obligation to go after all those individuals, ideas, arrangements and groups that aided and abetted the so-called tukde-tukde constituency.

The government cynically used and justified the use of coercive measures and legal provisions against anyone who could be charged with the intention to harm the nation. Clever.

Not only fringe groups but even mainstream political parties were accused of being soft on the tukde-tukde gang if they opposed the BJP’s majoritarian agenda. The BJP hit the jackpot. Enormous political and electoral dividends were harvested. The new Chankayas must have laughed themselves into a tizzy over how easy it was to blindside an entire nation and its various institutions.

It is necessary not to lose sight of this long and complicated background to contextualise the Congress party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra – the handiwork of a ‘jodo-jodo gang’.

It is easy to fall into the BJP’s trap of evaluating this yatra in terms of its potential to garner “votes” for the Congress. Or to debate whether it is really a ploy to position Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial alternative to Narendra Modi. It is not even certain whether the Congress will be better placed to undertake any kind of organisational consolidation as a result of this yatra.

What is, however, certain is that a major political party has invoked a positive sentiment of unity, togetherness, solidarity, partnership – in direct contrast to the majoritarian divisiveness being perpetuated by a cunning ruling clique. Notwithstanding the BJP and its proxies’ efforts to trivialise the yatra, the country has been presented, perhaps after a long time, with a slogan and an idea that does not turn anyone away or turn off any segment in the society. The jodo-jodo gang’s message is reminiscent of that old iconic song, mile sur mera tumhara ….

The yatra seeks to renew the Congress’s credentials as a party of national unity, cohesion and consolidation. For far too long the Congress has conceded to the Hindu right-wing the high ground of nationalism. Rahul Gandhi and his associates have not allowed themselves to be sidetracked by the snipping attacks from the BJP and its paid proxies on social media. The yatra’s unstated message is clear: just because Modi has led the BJP to impressive victories in two national elections in a row does not give him or his party a monopoly over nationalism and patriotism. The jodo-jodo gang is refusing to be mesmerised by Modi’s over-sized projection of India’s G20 presidency, and seems determined to stay the course.

A new perception is getting a toehold in our national imagination. The centrist and moderate elements in the majority community are beginning to understand that the BJP’s ultra-nationalist sales pitch is nothing but a reformulation of Mohan Bhagwat’s bluster about Hindus fighting a “1000 year” war against “foreigners” and their “internal enemies”. The BJP can only do the politics of ‘them’ versus ‘us’, a toxic strategy that will push the nation towards unending internal strife and divisions. All our grandiloquent aspirations of global leadership will flounder on the rocks of internal weakness and vulnerability.

Responsible politics is enjoined to produce social harmony and peace. No one can say with any certainty whether the Congress has conceptualised the Bharat Jodo Yatra with an eye on any electoral mileage. Even if the organisers are not unmindful of political gains, the jodo-jodo group and its exertions have helped the country move away from the fear of fragmentation invented by the authors of the tukde-tukde gang bogey. The nation can be said to stand reassured that there are still many among the political class who remain a force for unity and togetherness.  A small but vastly consequential gain. India is finally getting down to the business of exorcising the ghost of unknown and unseen enemies.