M A I N   N E W S

Advani’s yatra from March 10
Vajpayee to receive him at Amritsar
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
In an apparent move to counter Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s “roadshow” and sustain the party’s “feel good” campaign, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will embark on “Bharat Uday Yatra” (India Shining Rally), criss-crossing the country from March 10.

The 77-year-old BJP strongman ‘Sardar Patel II’, will begin his 33-day yatra, divided into two phases, on March 10 from Kanyakumari and cover about 8,000 km spread over 121 Lok Sabha constituencies in several states. The first leg of the yatra will conclude on March 26 in Amritsar.

The second phase of the yatra will be launched on March 30 from Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in Gujarat and culminate in Puri, Orissa, on April 14, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Baba Saheb B.R. Ambedkar, Mr Advani told newspersons here today.

BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu will flag off the yatra at Kanyakumari while Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will receive it at Amritsar. Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani will then visit the Golden Temple and Durgiana Mandir.

The four-day break in the yatra will be used by him to file his nominations, Mr Advani said.

Mr Advani is scheduled to cover Ayodhya on April 5 in the second leg of the yatra.

This will be the fourth major yatra to be undertaken by Mr Advani, who was instrumental in creating a popular wave for the BJP by embarking on his firstever and famous “Ram Rath Yatra” from Somnath to Ayodhya between September 25, and October 30, 1990, in the backdrop of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.

The other two yatras undertaken by the number two leader of the BJP were “Suraj Yatra” in 1996 and “Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra” in 1997.

Mr Advani, who was flanked by general secretaries Pramod Mahajan and M.A. Naqvi, however, dismissed suggestions that the yatra was aimed at catapulting him to the number one position.

It was an exercise to seek a renewed mandate for the BJP-led NDA under the leadership of Mr Vajpayee, he said.

“You were wrong then, you are wrong even today,” he said when asked whether it was an attempt to catapult him to the number one position.

To another question whether the yatra was to project him as “lauh purush” (Iron Man), Mr Advani merely said the BJP was a party with a difference under the “able and capable” leadership of Mr Vajpayee.

Maintaining that the basic thrust of his campaign would be on “development”, Mr Advani said an effort would be made to trigger a debate on the performance of the Vajpayee government in five years and the Congress’ performance during its 50-year rule.

He, however, tried to underplay the foreign origin issue.

Disagreeing with a view that his first yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya could not realise the aim of constructing a Ram temple, Mr Advani said the resolution of the Ayodhya imbroglio was best “possible and feasible” by reaching an agreement between the two principal communities and it “is going to come about.”

Asserting that the incumbency factor was not a liability but an asset for the Vajpayee-led NDA government, Mr Advani said the BJP-led government under the leadership of Mr Vajpayee had been able to shatter to pieces the myth created by the Congress that only it could give a stable government at the Centre.

“In 1998, people voted for stability. In 1999, it was for continuity. In the coming elections, they will vote for performance,” Mr Advani said.

This was significant in view of the fact that the elections this time were being held without any emotional issue and BJP-led NDA was seeking a renewed mandate on the basis of its achievements during the last six years.



Oppn asks EC to stall Advani’s yatra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
Opposition parties have strongly reacted to the “rath yatra” by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani stating that it would vitiate the atmosphere in the country and it violates the Model Code of Conduct. They sought the intervention of the Election Commission to stall the yatra.

The Congress said Advani’s “Bharat Uday Yatra” was not only a “cynical abuse of government property”, but also a “blatant violation” of the Model Code of Conduct, and called upon the Election Commission to take strong and immediate action against the BJP and Mr Advani in this regard.

Terming the 33-day-long yatra “yet another gimmick to fool the am adami,” Congress Spokesman Abishek Manu Singhvi said the proposed yatra was only a continuation of the Rs 700-crore “India Shining” campaign by the Vajpayee government on the taxpayers’ money during the past three months.

“It is now abundantly clear that India Shining campaign was a BJP campaign: of the BJP, for the BJP and by the BJP, barely camouflaged as a government initiative,” he told reporters here.

The CPM in a statement said the yatra is a deplorable step as it can result in vitiating the atmosphere. The Left party said “under the cover of an election campaign, the BJP leadership is once again arousing communal passions in the garb of a resurgent nationalism.”

“The Election Commission should examine whether such a campaign will help the conduct of elections in a peaceful and democratic atmosphere,” the party said.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan today appealed to the people to boycott the campaign, saying it would incite communal sentiments and divide society.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad described the Advani’s yatra as just an exercise aimed at political gains.

The yatra has nothing to do with the Hindutva agenda which brought the BJP to power and which it cannot afford to ignore in the future, VHP General Secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore said.Back


Bangarappa to join BJP

Bangalore, March 2
Claiming that he was feeling “choked” in the Congress, former Karnataka Chief Minister S. Bangarappa today announced that he would join the Bharatiya Janata Party with “hundreds of thousands of his followers” as he had no other option left before him.

Talking to newsmen here, he said the Congress had departed from its basic principles. He was sidelined in the party and his “seniority was not recognised”.

Mr Bangarappa, who received unanimous support from his supporters at a meeting held in his home district of Shimoga earlier in the day, said he would hold consultations with other state leaders before finalising the date to join the BJP. The Shimoga meeting, while endorsing the decision to join the BJP, had authorised him to take necessary action to complete the process.

Earlier, Mr Bangarappa had told UNI that the response on his proposal to join the BJP was “tremendous”. — UNIBack

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