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Kanyakumari ready for Advani's yatra
A Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari |
March 09, 2004 19:10 IST
Last Updated: March 09, 2004 19:10 IST
March 9, 2004, 1330 IST. They are still erecting the stage from where Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani will address a public meeting at 1030 IST Wednesday before starting off on his countrywide yatra -- a gruelling, month-long journey that will see him covering 16 states and Union Territories.
The cops are as unpleasant as they normally are before a VVIP visit. After checking my ID, the officer gives a patently fake smile that cops are known to reserve only for journalists.
Chairs are being unloaded from a van. The workers will be busy the entire night arranging the chairs, organising the public address system, giving finishing touches to the stage.
The road leading to the venue is barricaded on both sides. Whether Advani's yatra enthuses the Bharatiya Janata Party cadres or not is yet to be seen, but the effect is already visible on the Tamil Nadu police. They are everywhere. In Nagercoil and Kanyakumari, there was one policeman every ten feet. In the intervening countryside there was one every 100 metres.
Two heavily armed policemen keep a watchful eye on the workers erecting the stage. Tomorrow, there will be a battery of dignitaries up there -- BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu, party general secretaries Pramod Mahajan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain, state BJP president L Ganesan, Lalitha Kumaramangalam (sister of the late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam), cricketer Krishnamachari Srikkanth and actress Vijayashanti to name a few.
There are BJP flags everywhere. The BJP's ally, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham's flags are conspicuous by their absence. BJP District Secretary T Kumaradas is not sure whether the alliance is on. "Check up with the higher ups," he says.
The AIADMK district secretary says local party leaders will attend the function. State Minister Thalavai Sundaram and Tiruchendur Lok Sabha candidate Damodaran will be present too.
And Amma, as in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa? Mum is the word.
The Kanyakumari taluka comes under the Tiruchendur Lok Sabha constituency. The AIADMK and DMK are the main contenders in the fray.
Electioneering has been limited to graffiti on the walls so far. Advani's yatra could galvanise the proceedings.
Crowds are being mobilised for the yatra from the southern districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudhanagar, Madurai and Theni.
The cavalcade will be led by a pilot jeep followed by the rath carrying Advani. There will be a police van, a medical van, a food lorry and a smaller bus for Pon Radhakrishnan, minister of state in the Vajpayee government and the BJP's Lok Sabha candidate for Nagercoil.
All other vehicles, including the one for the media, will be kept a safe distance from Advani's rath.
The DMK is downplaying the yatra as an event of no consequence. DMK Secretary, Nagercoil, Rajan, says the only factor that influences voters in Nagercoil is religion.
In the past, Congress MPs from this region have been Protestant Christians. A Roman Catholic Christian is contesting the election for the first time.
Over 50% of the voters are Christians.
In 1999, Pon Radhakrishnan won because of the DMK's enthusiastic work. The BJP and DMK were allies then.
The BJP is aligned with the AIADMK now. Christians in the AIADMK will not support the BJP, locals say.
Radhakrishnan, who is in charge of the Tamil Nadu leg of the yatra, flits between Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. He is being assisted by state BJP Secretary Saravanaperumal, who answers this reporter's queries even as he signs VVIP passes.
Media passes will be released only at 1600 IST, he says. The superintendent of police wants to have a look at them.
From Kanyakumari to Kaliyakavilai, the Kerala border, BJP cadres will be posted at 41 points to welcome Advani.
He will address meetings from atop his rath at Nagercoil, Thuckalay and Marthandam. Bands playing music will line the yatra's route dotted with tastefully decorated arches.
Huge cutouts of Advani and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have been posted at five spots. BJP posters are everywhere.
The rath, which was parked at the Traveller's Bungalow, has now been moved to Kanyakumari. No one, including the media and BJP workers, are allowed anywhere near the rath.
On the sea shore a man sleeps peacefully at the doorway of the Kamaraj memorial. He can sleep peacefully today. Tomorrow may be a different story.