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5,000 people see Advani off on 33-day yatra

Ganesh Nadar in Kanyakumari | March 11, 2004 04:02 IST
Last Updated: March 11, 2004 04:46 IST

At 6am, the seashore in Kanyakumari is crowded. Watching the sunrise is a popular event.

On Wednesday, the crowd had swelled due to a good number of Keralites visiting the Bhagvati Amman temple in nearby Mandaikadu town for a weeklong festival.

The sky overhead was clear but was cloudy towards the east. Two minutes before the sun rose, a flag went up at the Vivekananda memorial, built off the coast.

The sun rose and cast its rays on the tall imposing statue of poet-saint Thiruvalluvar nearby. A little later, the crowd began to disperse.

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A single boat left the shore to encircle the rock memorial and the statue. A know-it-all local said the occupants were checking the intensity of the waves because Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani was scheduled to visit the rock memorial.

Advani visited the rock memorial, paid tributes to Thiruvalluvar and then prayed at the Bhagwati Amman temple before embarking on his 33-day, 7,872km Bharat Uday Yatra.

Nearly 5,000 people had gathered to see him off, and an equal number of policemen had been deployed to ensure his safety.

Advani stayed in the Tamil Nadu government's guesthouse but many of the VIPs present had been put up in nearby Kerala House though Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony had refused permission for the yatra to commence from its premises.

So it was flagged off from the gates of Kerala House. The yatra route was lined with BJP flags. On Wednesday morning, several AIADMK flags could also be seen.

A small stage had been set up with a huge banner serving as the backdrop. It depicted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee showing the victory sign from behind Parliament.

There was the picture of a woman representing Bharat mata. But instead of the national flag, she was holding one of the BJP. Advani was the third person in the banner, right in front.

A bomb disposal squad checked the stage even as Bharat chamak raha hai was playing in the background. There was a line in English, too, that went, 'India is shining'.

The BJP party workers seemed unaware that most Tamilians did not know English or Hindi. But someone did realise this and played a Tamil cassette, which had Tamil comedian Goundamani chatting with a woman, telling her that she must vote for the 'Lotus' symbol of the BJP.

A man was displaying a chart that showed scores of two cricket teams, one of India and the other of Italy. In the Indian team, Vajpayee was 10 short of 300 while Advani had scored a century. In the Italian team, the highest scorer was Sonia Gandhi with 70 runs.

Nadaswaram music was being played when a man on stage began teaching the crowd a new slogan: 'Jai Jai Yatra, Bharat Uday Yatra'

The crowd gamely responded. Outside the venue, young boys were selling caps carrying the lotus symbol and the letters 'BJP' in front; 'Jai Shri Ram' was written behind.

Pon Radhakrishnan, the BJP candidate from Nagercoil and former minister, began the proceedings. He said Swami Vivekananda had started his yatra from this spot in the 19th century. In 1991, former BJP chief Murli Manohar Joshi had began his Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari. And now, it was Advani's turn.

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One man, who was unhappy with the large contingent of cops, wanted to know why Advani was undertaking the yatra if he is so scared?

Then BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu took the stage and repeated what he has been saying in a hundred others meetings around the country. His play with words and rhyming sentences failed to make an impact when they were translated into Tamil, the local language.

Then he left the stage for Advani who managed to get a chance to address the audience only after several people had garlanded him and presented him with mementos.

He said this was not a Rath Yatra but a journey by bus. He will say just four words to the people he will meet during the 7,872km journey: India's time has come.

Click here for the yatra route map

He said India was shining and the opposition was scared of his yatra. Before winding his speech, he thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for forging an alliance with the BJP.

Then Advani got on the bus with his wife and daughter. At the wheel was Harish Dagur, a municipal corporator from Indore.

Naidu flagged off the yatra with a BJP flag. The bus was followed by cops and vehicles carrying party workers and mediapersons, in that order.

It was noon by the time Naidu and his senior party colleagues Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan walked back into Kerala House. Good timing too. The sun was reaching its zenith and it was hot outside as the bus slowly made its way through the crowd.

Follow Advani on his Yatra

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