The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
In the summer of 2003, the then leader of opposition in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, Dr. YSR, went on a padayatra. He walked continuously for ~1200kms, covering ~10-12 kms every day. There is a widespread belief that this padayatra was one of the primary reasons why the Congress party came back to power in AP in 2004.
In 2012 – Chandrababu Naidu, then leader of opposition in the AP assembly, went on a ~2500km padayatra. This went on for nearly 6 months, with just minor breaks in between (and only once because of health issues). Though the party couldn’t make a mark in Telangana region, for the obvious reasons, this padayatra (coupled with other factors) is believed to have bought back Naidu into power (albeit in the post-bifurcated AP).
In 2015, Around mid-April, many news papers reported that Rahul Gandhi will undertake “country-wide” padayatra. Some reported on where it will start, some reported possible routes Rahul will take; some were even ecstatic that the 56 day holiday he took is materializing into something! As is the want of the Congress party, bits and pieces of “leaks” were being fed to the media – but none of them of course confirming anything. Since the concept of padayatra is not alien to people from the telugu states, I was eagerly awaiting the details of Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra.
And then he flew into Maharashtra. He visited the Vidarbha region, undertook a padayatra for 15kms for that particular day, and flew back to Delhi. About 15 days later, he flew into Telangana (well, technically to Nanded in Maharashtra and drove to Adilabad in Telangana). And undertook a padayatra for 15 kms for that particular day and flew back to Delhi. We are yet to know when and where this schedule will be repeated again.
Through these two tours, Rahul Gandhi has totally re-written the concept of Padayatra! YSR was ~53 years when he walked ~1200kms. Chandrababu Naidu was ~63 years when he walked ~2500kms. Both of them went through this like some deeksha – unwavering in their focus. Neither of them descended on a town, addressed the people and flew back to the luxury of their home – Rahul’s flash tours brings back the nostalgic memories of what he did during 2004-2014 when even his party was in power.
Public memory is short – otherwise the media would have reminded us that Rahul Gandhi resorted to these exact same antics earlier too. Media hyper-ventilated when he took the local train in Mumbai; when he went to Dalit homes to eat food; when he took world leaders on a poverty tour of Amethi; when he went to popular food joints at various cities; when he went and “fought” for the people of Niyamagiri etc. None of these visits had any positive impact on a single person – infact the Dalits whom he visited still languish in the same abysmal conditions. The 2014 results were supposed to be an eye-opener, but all that Rahul Gandhi could figure out was that he should just repeated these antics more frequently.
Take for example the Padayatra in Telangana. After flying in, in a private jet, and arriving at the starting point in a convoy, Rahul Gandhi started his padayatra. 5 families were chosen by the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi visited these five families – and handed them over cheques for Rs. 2 lakhs. What message is being sent when only 5 families in distress could be attended to, in an entire day? If the farmer in Telangana is in distress, one of the primary reason is power supply. The supply of power to the farms was erratic at best – the state was reeling under a power crisis for the past 4 years. For three of these years, the Congress party was in power. Now, we have Rahul Gandhi coming and lecturing on how the party helped farmers!
Or take the example of the Padayatra in Vidarbha. The Congress has been in power in the state for 15 years. Statistics of farmer suicides in Vidarbha show us the high level of distress in the region for the last 15 years. Yet, Rahul Gandhi went to Vidarbha and blamed the incumbent BJP government for not doing anything for the farmers! After his visit to Punjab (same pattern again – fly in –> take train –> meet someone –> fly back), Rahul Gandhi accused the Modi government of being a “suit-boot” ki sarkar. On other tours, Rahul Gandhi has always ridiculed the aspirational programs of various governments – and mostly focused on announcing of various doles.
The underlying argument by Rahul Gandhi being this – farmers should not dream of wearing “suit-boot”; farmers should not dream of getting jobs for their children; farmers should not dream of good housing – they must remain poor; they must stick to farming, even if it is not bringing in returns; and they must continue to depend on the mercy of the Congress party to receive doles! Rahul Gandhi has never once offered any scientific solutions to the farming crisis. Modi government has been experimenting with a variety of features (soil health card for example). KCR has setup an ambitious Mission Kakatiya project – aiming to provide water to agriculture by restoring lakes etc. Rahul Gandhi has now termed KCR to be a chota-Modi – that is his the seriousness with which he debates the agriculture issue.
The disastrous leadership of Rahul Gandhi is evident in how little Amethi has progressed. That he takes pride in giving poverty tours is a reflection of the backwardness of his thought process. The superfluous nature of his visits might excite the cadre of the congress party, but will have little impact on the lives of the farmers. The English media might get excited with his utterances, but his lies will now not go un-noticed. In this day and age of information overflow, it is a pity that Rahul Gandhi thinks he can get away with hyperbole and lies.