Yogendra Yadav, one of India’s well-known political commentators and psephologists, says that Rahul Gandhi “has clearly become a credible political leader”. Yadav, who has been participating in the Bharat Jodo Yatra since its start on September 7, says: “Finally, Rahul has earned what he inherited – he has won the respect of Congress leaders, Congress workers and ordinary people”. However, Yadav adds “whether this translates into prime ministerial qualities is still to be seen”.
In a 35-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, recorded on January 12 afternoon whilst the Yatra is travelling through Punjab, Yadav said that Rahul Gandhi has become more reflective and thoughtful and even went so far as to say he has become “spiritual and philosophical”.
Explaining in more detail the change in Rahul Gandhi since the Yatra began on September 7, Yadav said: “Before the yatra, his understanding (of India) was philosophical and academic … now his understanding is a grounded understanding … he’s much more grounded.”
Today, “Rahul is being seen as a different kind of politician”, he said.
One of the key questions put to Yadav arises out of his description of Rahul Gandhi as a more spiritually and philosophically awakened person. Will this advance Gandhi’s political career and will it benefit a political party like Congress?
In the interview, Yogendra Yadav also explains Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on wearing a white T-shirt even though the temperature is freezing cold. He says that the explanation Rahul gave in public – that he’s doing this because he met three young girls who were shivering because they did not have warm clothes and decided that he (Rahul) would not wear a sweater until he starts shivering himself – was a decision Rahul took five or six weeks ago when the Yatra was passing through Madhya Pradesh. He also shared this explanation with Yogendra Yadav roughly a week before he publicly revealed it at a press conference.
Yadav said this is an attempt by Rahul to experience what poor people like the three young girls are experiencing in the cold winter of northern India and thus better understand their condition and suffering. Yadav compared this to Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to wear a langot.
The Swaraj Abhiyan founder was also questioned about Rahul Gandhi’s statement, made at a press conference, when he was asked about how his image has changed. On that occasion Rahul said: “Rahul Gandhi sirf aap ke dimag mein hai. Maine usse maar diya. He’s gone. He doesn’t exist anymore. Aap Hindu dharm ko pado.” Yadav was asked what this means and if this is a fitting answer for a politician to give to a journalist at a press conference.
Speaking about the impact of the Yatra, Yadav said: “Indeed the tide has turned … not everything has changed … the Yatra has not achieved all its objectives … but a brake has been applied to the way the nation was hurtling down.”
Yadav repeatedly said there’s “a narrative shift”. He said, “Those who seek to oppose BJP hegemony are now pro-active … the BJP is becoming reactive.”
Particularly notably, Yadav said that if an election is held in Haryana today, “the BJP is out”. However, he said he could not say this of UP. Watch the interview to fully appreciate and understand everything that Yogendra Yadav has said.