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Advani: A tale of two yatras
K G Suresh in Rajkot | April 05, 2006 22:25 IST
Barely a year after his controversial visit to Pakistan, where he sought to shed his hardliner image, senior BJP leader L K Advani embarks on yet another yatra from Rajkot on Thursday in a fresh attempt to revive his fortunes both within the party and outside it.
While the previous yatra became controversial after his laudatory remarks on Mohammed Ali Jinnah at his mazar in Karachi, his sixth yatra has courted controversy from the moment it was announced in March in the wake of the Varanasi blasts.
Ironically, the 78-year-old leader, who had to step down for his remarks on the Pakistani founder, would begin his journey after paying homage to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, at his birthplace in Porbandar near Rajkot. It was alleged that the Leader of Opposition unilaterally announced the yatra without taking the party or its new President Rajnath Singh into confidence, though the party later denied it and claimed it was a well thought-out unanimous decision.
Even as Advani rushed to Nagpur to seek the crucial support of the Sangh fountainhead, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders pooh-poohed the yatra saying people had lost faith, both in him and the party.
Complete Coverage: The BJP Yatra
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh later issued a statement indirectly endorsing the yatra and the party had to put up a brave face saying it did not expect any support from the 'parivar' outfits.
Then came reports that former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had reservations about the programme, which were subsequently denied.
The timing of the yatra, threats from terrorist organisations, the change in its nomenclature from the 'National Integration Yatra' to 'Bharat Suraksha Yatra', and the alleged importance being given to his yatra vis-a-vis Rajnath Singh's simultaneous programme from Bhubaneswar, were the other issues which kept the twin tours in the limelight for the wrong reasons, even before they started.
The gruelling 6,000-kilometre run would see Advani, who had brought 'yatra' into the country's political lexicon, along with terms like 'pseudo-secularism', traversing through ten states, before concluding in Delhi on May 10.
He would be taking breaks to campaign in the five poll-bound states. The yatra is primarily aimed at educating the masses about the threats posed to the country's internal and external securities, by the "minority appeasement" policies of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre and its alleged failures on all fronts. Besides winning back his core constituency, the yatra is also seen by observers as an attempt by the former Deputy Prime Minister to re-establish himself within the party after his resignation in December 2005 following a spat with the RSS on the Jinnah issue.
Ahead of his Pakistan trip in May 2005, Advani wanted to shed the image that "he had horns". Prior to the current yatra, he declared, "I continue to remain what I am. It is the party's image which needs a change."
If Advani's landmark Somnath-Ayodhya 'Ramrath yatra' of 1990, which catapulted his party to the centrestage of national politics, was focussed on construction of a Ram temple, this time around it would be Lord Krishna to whom he would be paying obeisance before commencing his journey.
Of course, the yatra would begin on Ram Navami on Thursday, which is also the party's foundation day. This time around, Advani would not be touching Bihar, where his 1990 juggernaut was brought to a halt by his bete noire Lalu Prasad at Samastipur, leading to the downfall of the V P Singh government at the Centre. In a twist of fate, BJP is a partner in the ruling coalition in Bihar now.
As the evergreen rath yatri of Indian politics gets ready to take off on Thursday, for ordinary BJP workers, the crucial question is whether it would yield the results like the 1990 yatra, or will it end up as another 'Bharat Uday' yatra of 2004, which failed to bring NDA back to power at the Centre.