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The Rediff Election Special / Ganesh Nadar
How Advani antagonised Coimbatore
March 15, 2004
It was late in the evening on March 11, 2004 when Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani was scheduled to arrive in Coimbatore in his special bus from Palakkad, Kerala.
Security was not just tight; it was stifling. From the point where he entered the city to the VOC Stadium where he addressed a public meeting, policemen stopped all traffic and closed all shops on either side of the road.
One could walk on that road but none could stand or wait anywhere. One can't help wondering if this will endear Advani and his BJP to the residents of Coimbatore or anyone who was using the road, which happened to be a National Highway no less.
March 12, 2004 was a busy day, like any other. There are a lot of schools, colleges, and industries along the stretch of road leading from the city to the airport. It is a National Highway heading for nearby Tirupur.
Just after the turning to the airport is the Ramalakshmi marriage hall. On Friday morning, it was the venue for Advani's press conference. Policemen had besieged the area by the time the BJP leader, who had been put up in the Circuit House, was ready to meet mediapersons.
As he made his way to the venue, other people using the road were overtaken by a jeep and two vans, all full of policemen, and told to move their vehicles to one side. Buses came to a reluctant halt.
Some policemen forced them to take the turns off the road to decongest it. In no time, the highway was blocked and the daily lives of several people disrupted.
One man pulled out his ID, which showed he was a purser with Jet Airways. He was getting delayed for work. An air-hostess was certain she would miss her flight, which would reflect poorly on her. She was almost in tears.
Another man was pleading that if he was not in office on time, he could even lose his job. He too showed an ID card. But the policemen were unmoved.
College going girls started fidgeting but chose not to vent their feelings. But one girl was crying because she was on her way to give her Std XII final exams. If she was late and failed to give her exam, she could even lose a year.
When the pleading did not work, they openly abused the BJP.
The man who feared losing his job said, "I will never vote for the BJP. Why should I vote for a party that needs so much security? Doesn't the man realise that the HSC exams are on? Couldn't he go earlier or come later? Is he a moron?"
The others agreed that they would not vote for the BJP.
In that one intersection alone, Advani succeeded in instigating at least 50 people to vote for the opposition. Imagine the total number of people he is likely to alienate on his nearly 8,000km long yatra.
There were people who pointed out that Advani is traversing the country as a BJP leader, not as the deputy prime minister of India. Spending public money on his tour is like funding the BJP's election campaign. The BJP should arrange its own security or pay the cops for their work.
Click here for the yatra route map
After meeting mediapersons, Advani headed for Bangalore. This resulted in the closure of the Coimbatore-Salem road, a distance of 150km for two hours. I rest my case.
All in all, Advani's yatra will definitely make the states he will traverse through poorer. Worse, he may even end up antagonising voters.
Complete coverage of Advani's yatra