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Following Advani: From frying pan to fire
Pankaj Upadhyaya |
March 17, 2004 19:27 IST
Last Updated: March 18, 2004 00:54 IST
Following Advani: From frying pan to fire
If Solapur was hot, Nagpur is fiery. Day temperatures hover around 38° Celsius here and I am told nights are no better. A mere mention of 'temperature' sparks long, passionate debates. Figures are quoted freely -– heat, humidity, heatstroke casualties. Nagpur is proud of its summer temperatures, just as Mumbai is, in somewhat mocking fashion, about its crowded trains. Men and women here drape their faces and head with scarves before heading out of their homes. The commonest mode of transport here is bicycles and mobikes, and if you are not protected against heat, god save you. Did anybody say buses? Well, you don't see many on the roads here. When you see one, you don't want to get in.
Complete Coverage of Advani's Yatra
The infrastructure, though, has improved a lot from the time when I was here working as a sub-editor. The wretched look of Nagpur of those days -– 1992-93 -– has given way to a city that is clean and green. The man responsible for this transformation is the same man who has been given the charge of 'turning Mumbai into a Singapore' -– Chandrashekhar.
It's an NDA roadshow now.
Deputy Prime Lal Kishenchand Advani's 'Bharat Uday Yatra' re-enters Maharashtra on March 18 in Yavatmal district after a brief detour of Andhra Pradesh, where he was joined by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, whose Telugu Desam Party is a much loved, much pampered ally of the BJP.
Click Here for the Yatra Route Map
There are more allies waiting to join Advani in Maharashtra -- Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray and Samata Party leader and Defence Minister George Fernandes.
Champion of farmers' causes and Shetkari Sanghatana leader, Sharad Joshi, will join Advani too. It looks like Advani's yatra is now metamorphosing gradually into a National Democratic Alliance roadshow.
Over two days Advani will address five rallies in Vidarbha -– a region comprising 11 districts of Nagpur, Wardha, Bhandara, Yavatmal, Gadchiroli, Buldhana, Washim, Gondia, Chandrapur, Akola and Amravati. He will cover five Lok Sabha constituencies -– Yavatmal, Wardha, Bhandara, Nagpur and Ramtek. Only two of these are currently with the BJP-Sena alliance -– Bhandara with the BJP and Ramtek with the Sena. Rest all are with the Congress.
For a state of Vidarbha
There is a strong and ever-growing movement in the region seeking statehood for Vidarbha. While the BJP has since long been supporting this demand, Sena has been opposed to any break-up of the state. However, lately the Sena too has been less virulent in its opposition to the concept of Vidarbha as a state. The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance also looks more accommodating to the idea of a smaller Maharashtra now. It now looks imminent that Vidarbha, sooner or later, will be a separate state and Nagpur, which has for long played second fiddle to Mumbai as the state's winter capital, will get what many here consider its due.
The prospect of a division of the state may raise various concerns. But the most immediate concern is how this movement will impact the impending election. There is a likelihood of three-cornered contests between the Sena-BJP alliance, the Congress-NCP alliance and the Savatantra Vidharbha Aghadi in many seats. This may spoil the party for many stalwarts.
RSS is in Jaipur
Nagpur is where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was born in 1925 on the Hindu holy day of Vijaya Dashami and where it is still headquartered. All its top leaders either sit here or frequent its office in Reshimbaug. But the political voice of the RSS now is its Delhi office. Now a few press statements are issued from Nagpur and, of course, RSS meetings are off the bounds for journalists.
But despite the RSS' presence in Nagpur, Vidarbha is considered a Congress bastion. Though the word from Nagpur is that the RSS cadres are going to work just as hard for the BJP in the forthcoming election as they did in Gujarat, the Sangh Parivar does not seem too kicked about the party's prospects in Vidarbha. A day before Advani's arrival in the region, not a single senior office-bearer is present in Nagpur. They are all in Jaipur for a meeting.