Season of yatras begins

BJP veteran L K Advani, Gandhian Anna Hazare and yoga guru Baba Ramdev will launch their respective yatras. Ramdev’s tour will specifically target black money.

Though the cause is more or less common, people’s expectations, especially from Advani, would be different. Advani, apart from being the lone politician among the trio and having the largest number of yatras to his credit - five so far and set to launch his sixth - is also the oldest at 83.

Ramdev wants to stage a comeback after his aborted fast at Delhi’s Ramlila grounds on June 5, when the police arrested and translocated him to Dehra Dun in a midnight swoop. He was caught even as he tried to make good his escape disguised as a woman.

The yoga expert, against whom the government has slapped a case under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act), will launch the second phase of his “Bharat Swabhiman Yatra” from Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh on September 20.

Anna Hazare, 74 and rearing to go after tasting success with his fast for a strong Lokpal Bill, on Sunday announced his yatra to inform voters about the stand taken by political parties on the anti-corruption legislation, Lokpal Bill. Anna will target the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Manipur. Elections are due here in the early part of next year.

The mostly keenly watched yatra, however, will be that of Advani. The indomitable yatri, whose rath yatra in 1990 pitchforked the BJP to power later that decade, is politically significant not only for him but also for the party.

Fresh bid for power

His yatra plan is seen as the former deputy prime minister’s strategic move to throw his hat back in the ring and has rattled his party’s senior line-up. Advani was virtually catapulted out of the leadership race after his `Jinnah remark’, praising the father of Pakistan during his trip to that country in 2005.

Though Advani’s itinerary is yet to be finalised, he is likely to kickstart his yatra on October 11- the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, who led a campaign to oust Indira Gandhi from power. Setting off from Karamsad in Gujarat, the birthplace of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the yatra will culminate in Delhi, ahead of the winter session of Parliament. The choice is significant as Advani, like Patel, likes to be called ‘Lok Purush’. If Karamsad is shot down, he may take off from Somnath. His camp follower and BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar will be the chief coordinator of the tour.

It is still not clear if Advani will hit the poll-bound states like Anna. While the party units in the poll states may demand being on the yatra route, some leaders eschew such “regional divide”.

Advani’s 6000-km yatra will “certainly pass through Karnataka”, said Deepak Chopra, a close aide of the veteran. Advani is keen to include Assam and Andamans in his itinerary.
Somnath, Ahmedabad and Porbandar were among the starting points considered by a meeting of the party’s core group on Sunday. Sources said the  festival season has to be taken into account while finalising the dates of the cross-country yatra.

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