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Yatra has done wonders, translating into votes next challenge: Tharoor

Kolkata: Congress leader Sashi Tharoor on Thursday said while the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi has evoked a massive response, “translating this into votes is the next challenge and doesn’t follow axiomatically”.

He also said that the “government was shaken” by the success of the Yatra and a letter written by it warning of the dangers posed by the Covid-19 strain which may have come in from China was “signalling that it was extremely concerned about its success.”

Tharoor, who recently unsuccessfully contested the post of the Congress president, also said his party will need to take other parties, especially regional players, along to mount a challenge in the 2024 general elections.

“By own impression is that the way he (Gandhi) has been personally received has done wonders for his image,” he told PTI on the sidelines of an event organised as part of the Kolkata Literary Festival.

“Now translating this into votes is the next challenge, and that doesn’t follow axiomatically,” the Congress leader added.

Questioned about Covid-19 posing a threat to the Yatra, Tharoor pointed out that the walkathon will end less than a month later on January 26 and that till now the “messages coming” from experts were fairly reassuring.

“The variants that have been doing so much damage in China have already been identified in India in June-July and have not caused any major calamity,” he said adding that the country still needed to be vigilant.

“The government is shaken Writing to Rahul that the Covid made the Yatra dangerous was a signal that it was extremely concerned about its success,” the political leader said.

Earlier this week, the Congress had charged that the BJP-led central government was using Covid as an excuse to stop the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Tharoor also alluded to the Congress party’s earlier complaints that Yatra participants were questioned by the Intelligence Bureau.

“I hope this will not be repeated as we carry on into Haryana, UP and Kashmir my hope is that by allowing the Yatra to come to its planned conclusion, the government will put the interests of Indian democracy ahead of narrow political interests of the ruling party,” he said.

Tharoor also said that though he believed the Congress would emerge as the largest single party from among opposition parties, it would still need to forge ties with other opposition parties ahead of the 2024 general elections.

He said, “Congress is bound to be the largest single opposition parties in the next general elections,” but would still need “a willing coalition of opposition parties around it, especially regional parties.”

“Opposition unity is very desirable if we are to offer the country an alternative government next time,” said the former minister and UN bureaucrat-turned-author.

“Otherwise we will be stuck with the kind of majoritarian rule that all these parties are individually objecting to,” he added.

He said this even as new fissures with opposition parties surfaced. Earlier on Thursday, a key opposition player, former UP chief minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said his party’s ideology was different from that of the Congress and the BJP.

When asked if he was invited to join the Yatra, Yadav said he did not receive an invitation.

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