New Delhi: The Congress launched its 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state dominated by Dravidian politics for over six decades now.
The two Dravidian parties -- the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) -- have been ruling the state since 1967.
The Congress has been riding piggyback on either of the two Dravidian parties since 1991 when it partnered with AIADMK's J Jayalalithaa. From 2004 onwards, the grand old party was in alliance with the DMK, which is currently in power in Tamil Nadu.
Congress cannot on its own do much in this state. Thus, launching the yatra from Kanyakumari is merely symbolic.
The yatra will pass through 12 states and culminate in Jammu and Kashmir, covering a distance of nearly 3,500 km in about 150 days.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, it will cover Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
Surprisingly, two poll-bound states Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are missing from the list. These states go to polls in November-December this year.
The choice of Kanyakumari for launching the yatra came as a surprise to many.
Though the aim of the yatra is to unite India, the Congress also needs to realise that it has to win the elections in states for its revival nationally.
The party came close to ousting the ruling BJP in Gujarat in the 2017 assembly elections but after that, there have been no efforts to build on that performance.
As of now, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has taken a significant lead over the Congress in terms of campaigning and mass contact programme in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's party is giving a good fight to the BJP, which was in power in Gujarat for the past 27 consecutive years.
It was only last week that the Congress kicked off its campaign in Gujarat.
Similarly, it has a strong chance of regaining power in Himachal Pradesh but its campaign is yet to gain any major traction.
Congress strategists could have included these two states on its map and instead of Kanyakumari launched the yatra from Sabarmati Ashram, the home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930, in Ahmedabad.
In terms of narrative building and optics, the move would have definitely sent a strong message in Modi's home state.
The yatra is hardly covering the Hindi heartland, which holds the key to power at the Centre.
Except for a few places in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the yatra is not travelling extensively in Uttar Pradesh. It is just touching Bulandshahar on the outskirts of Delhi. An important Hindi belt state of Bihar is also missing from the route. So are Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Again, the yatra covers one point in Haryana and that is Ambala and from there it moves to Pathankot in Punjab and from there it enters neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir.
The other aspect noticed in the yatra so far is a group of select leaders, led by the general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal, constantly surrounding Rahul Gandhi, who is the face of this yatra and drawing crowds.
The others should be asked to spread and take the yatra to each and every nook of the country. Being seen with Rahul Gandhi seems to be more important for them than taking the key message of the yatra across the country.
The strategists involved in drawing up the yatra map should have taken into account the importance of the Hindi belt, which is now completely under the BJP's control. Unless the Congress ousts the BJP from these states, it would not be easy to dethrone the saffron party at the national level and such yatras will only remain mere optics.