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Following Advani: Hot and baked in Solapur
Pankaj Upadhyaya |
March 15, 2004 14:40 IST
Last Updated: March 15, 2004 18:55 IST
It's business as usual in Solapur. It's Monday morning and nothing in this hot, dry and dusty town in southern Maharashtra indicates that Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani will be arriving here in a few hours from now on his 'Bharat Uday Yatra.'
Two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws, cars and lorries crawl on the crowded roads, each leaving in its wake a cloud of dust. A few hours on the road and the dust and sweat has already given me a 'nicely baked' look.
Kannada, a language I cannot follow, is common usage here. Lots of people have names that do not sound even remotely Maharashtrian, like Vithal Padhganchi.
Karnataka is an hour's drive from here. Almost every family has a relative on the other side of the state border. Every trader has customers/suppliers/associates in that state. What's more, Congress is the ruling party in both states.
Solapur is not Coimbatore
Advani is likely to reach here around 1830-1900 IST from Bijapur in Karnataka. He is scheduled to address a rally at the 'Home Maidan' at 2000 IST. This 'Home' is not what the English word means. It is the ritual of making offerings to the gods by putting them into a fire - one of the five elements, Hindu mythology says, the universe is made of.
There is a Siddheshwar temple near the Home Maidan where people from all over the country gather every year in January for a 'yatra' - a religious congregation. The maidan takes its name from the 'home' or 'havan' that is performed during the yatra.
Click here for the yatra route map
As I pass by the maidan, I see rows and rows of red chairs. There are cops all over the place. But no vehicles are being checked, no frisking and no roadblocks. Nothing of the scary tales rediff.com reporters had written about in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
In fact, I walked into Tripursundari, the hotel where Advani will be spending the night, carrying a big backpack. Nobody stopped me. No questions were asked. Now that is a big change from Coimbatore.
So, who's Advani campaigning for?
Nobody in Solapur knows as yet the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate from the seat. Nor has its main rival, the Congress party, made up its mind. It's a funny situation.
Pratapsinh Mohite Patil, a former Congressman, won the Solapur seat in a by-election on a BJP ticket. The by-election was caused by the Congress MP, Sushilkumar Shinde, being made the chief minister of Maharashtra.
But the interesting part is that Pratapsinh is the younger brother of Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, a powerful Maratha leader who is now the deputy chief minister. He owes allegiance to Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party. He is believed to have worked against the Congress candidate in the by-election despite his party being part of the ruling coalition in the state.
The loss of the Solapur seat was a huge embarrassment for Shinde.
Now, with Pawar having buried his differences with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the two parties have entered into an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. The moot question then is will Pratapsinh be the BJP candidate again? Also, can the BJP trust him now?
Maharashtra - safe or no-hoper
Why is Advani spending just two days in Maharashtra, leaving large parts of the state - the entire western Maharashtra, Konkan and Marathwada - untouched?
After entering Maharashtra on March 15, he dives into Andhra Pradesh the very next day only to emerge briefly in Maharashtra on the night of March 18 to cover a tiny slice of Vidarbha covering Yavatmal, Bhandara, Wardha and Nagpur.
He then disappears into Madhya Pradesh.
The answer varies depending where it is coming from. The Congress camp says the deputy prime minister is running scared of Maharashtra. The BJP maintains the logistics of the yatra make it difficult for him to spend too much time in Maharashtra.
Several newspaper analysts have said Advani is steering clear of two types of constituencies - safe and no-hopers. Which of that applies to the constituencies he is not touching in Maharashtra will be clear only when the results are out.
Personally, I think he hates the 'baked look' just as much as I do.
Complete coverage of Advani's yatra