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Running after L K Advani is no easy task

Last updated on: October 14, 2011 12:56 IST

Running after L K Advani is no easy task

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Keeping up with the 83-year-old BJP veteran and his yatra across India is a bit of a mad rush, says Priyanka

This is my first big assignment in my new job -- following Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's rath yatra for the first four days," I had proudly told my parents.

And while I had always wanted to go on such an assignment (the plan, on paper, to cover 270 km daily actually excited me), I was aware that I wouldn't possibly know in advance what to expect or know how my next four days would turn out to be simply because I had never done such a thing.

Following the yatra is like a mad rush. Advani's bus races ahead and it is followed at all times by anywhere between 50 and 80 cars. The number of cars increases if the convoy is travelling through a BJP-ruled state. And  scores of journalists covering the yatra are following the convoy in their respective cars, creating a situation akin to a vehicular stampede.


Image: At L K Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.bjp.org/
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How many people actually listen to what leaders say?

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Two cars met with minor accidents on Wednesday when they rammed into each other. Their luggage was then shifted to  other cars.

So, you are not really moving with Advani on this rath yatra, you are trying to catch up with him. At least three public meetings, lasting nearly 15 minutes, have been held in the last three days and I have never been able to reach on time to attend these. By the time I catch up, it's time to play the yatra theme song.

I wonder how many people actually listen to what leaders say in public rallies. I asked a few people who attended these rallies and they didn't seem particularly moved by the issue of bringing back black money, which is one of the top-most agendas of Advani's yatra.

Shouldn't the leaders focus on local issues to forge a better connect with the people? What are the chances that a farmer or a tea stall owner would care about the cash-for-votes scandal in Parliament? How will it change his life?


Image: At L K Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.bjp.org/
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There are no toilets anywhere for women!

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Senior journalists discuss national politics in media vans; make and break angles for their stories to be published later. I try to absorb as much as possible, but there is a void and there is too much history that I don't know about. I try but I am not able to read between the lines. At best, I am beginning to gauge how my seniors work.

The arrangements at public meetings are nothing to write home about. There are no toilets for women either at the venues of public meetings or while on the move. And this has been very problematic for me personally, because after leaving Varanasi on Thursday I am now the only woman journalist on board.

The food arrangements have been equally haphazard. Food packets were rampantly distributed at one of the public meetings on Thursday.

And when the yatra finally left the venue, it was in a greater and dirtier mess. Water bottles and food trays were strewn all over the place; it instantly reminded me of the film Peepli Live.


Image: At LK Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.bjp.org/
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Why do so many people turn up to watch the yatra?

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The caravan trudged through small towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, throwing the lives of locals completely out of gear.

I took some time to understand why people thronged roadsides and public meetings in large numbers, at odd hours, and waited to catch a glimpse of the yatra and its leader. The reason: This is probably the most major event that has happened in their lives in a long time. 

And as I passed through one village after another, I saw neatly dressed school children running after the cars, girls dressed in traditional attire with flowers for welcome and kaccha houses which I had till now seen at Delhi Haat exhibits only. 

I have not been able to survive without a Bisleri water bottle and I can't eat rice without a spoon. It makes me feel like a stranger in my own country. These used to be a part of my childhood memories, but I abandoned them somewhere. It now seems like a long time ago. It feels like a long time ago.

Nonetheless, the movement of the carvan in the night is a visual treat.  And from up in the sky, or on Google earth, I feel that a trailing blaze of fast moving cars in an otherwise dark terrain would look like a fire dragon roaming in the shadows of the night.


Image: At L K Advani's Jan Chetna Yatra
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.bjp.org/
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