With Rahul Gandhi along with several Congress leaders embarking on a 3,570-km Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, here is a look at some key yatras undertaken in independent India and how they fared in transforming the fortunes of parties and leaders.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is being billed as Congress's biggest mass contact programme since independence and a "turning point" in India's political history. The Congress has also said it is a "transformational moment" for Indian politics and a "decisive moment" for the party's rejuvenation.
Rahul Gandhi is not new to the 'yatra bandwagon' and has taken part in marches before such as for the farmers' cause in Bhatta Parsaul, and a few other brief yatras, but never has he undertaken such a journey at this scale.
Here are some of the political yatras along with their hits and misses in terms of their impact:
1983, Chandra Shekhar's Bharat Yatra: Nearly four decades ago, former prime minister and then Janata Party leader embarked upon a padyatra from Kanyakumari, from where the Congress's Bharat Jodo Yatra also began this morning.
Monikers such as the 'Marathon man' were given to Chandra Shekhar when six months after he began on January 6, 1983, the yatra reached New Delhi. His stature and the traction to the yatra went on rising as he passed village after village during his yatra for connecting with the people.
Though observers regard the padayatra as largely a success, dramatic political developments like Indira Gandhi's assassination diluted its impact in the 1984 elections, which were swept by Rajiv Gandhi.
1985 Congress Sandesh Yatra by the then prime minister and Congress president Rajiv Gandhi at the AICC plenary in Mumbai. The All India Congress Seva Dal carried it out across India.
PCCs and Congress leaders carried out the yatra as four simultaneous journeys from Mumbai, Kashmir, Kanyakumari and the Northeast. The yatra concluded at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan in over three months.
1990 Rath Yatra led by Lal Krishna Advani: The Rath yatra was taken out to give momentum to the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The yatra that started in September 1990 was to cover 10,000 km and culminate in Ayodhya on October 30.
It was halted in Samastipur in north Bihar and Advani was arrested.
Political analysts feel the Rath Yatra gave a fillip to the BJP's electoral and ideological reach. As the demand for the temple gained momentum, the BJP's electoral fortunes also soared high.
1991 Ekta Yatra: This yatra was led by then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi and sought to highlight the BJP's support to national unity and its opposition to separatist movements. It began in December in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu and covered 14 states. It was seen as a follow-up to Advani's Rath Yatra to further boost BJP's electoral fortunes.
The yatra culminated with Joshi getting airlifted to Srinagar and unfurling the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on January 26, 1992. According to political analysts, it was considered to have minimal success as not many locals participated.
The Ekta Yatra was replicated by the party in 2011 when it held a 14-day yatra from Kolkata to Kashmir’s Lal Chowk to unfurl the national flag in the Valley.
Congress leader Y S Rajasekhar Reddy had undertaken a 1,400-km padyatra in April 2003. He led the Congress to a resounding victory a year later, defeating the incumbent Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
2004 BJP's Bharat Uday Yatra: Advani's Bharat Uday Yatra highlighted India's achievements under the six-year reign of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It did not pay the expected electoral dividend as the BJP suffered defeat in Lok Sabha polls and the UPA-I come to power.
2017 yatra by YSRCP chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy: In the run-up to the April 2019 Andhra Pradesh assembly elections, YSRCP chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy undertook a massive Praja Sankalpa Yatra starting in 2017, covering over 3,500 km by foot across the state.
2017 Narmada Parikrama Yatra: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh undertook the ‘Narmada Parikrama’ from the Barman ghat in Narsinghpur district, situated on the banks of the Narmada.
Though Singh maintained that the 3,000-plus-km Narmada Parikarma was entirely a spiritual exercise, many observers said its political implications were evident and it contributed to the success of the party in 2019 assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh.
August 2021, BJP's Jan Ashirwad Yatra: The BJP launched a five-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra last year as part of which 39 Union ministers were sent to cover 22 states. The ministers undertook the Jan Ashirwad Yatras to cover 212 Lok Sabha constituencies and travel over 19,567 km to reach out to people and tell them about the government's achievements.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with several party leaders, embarked on the Bharat Jodo Yatra from here on Thursday, marking the beginning of a challenging journey through which the party is seeking to reach out to people and rejuvenate its organisation.
(With PTI inputs)