LK Advani was greeted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as he landed in the Chhapra district today to begin his sixth rath yatra. Mr Advani arrived in Sitab Diara in a helicopter.
The 40-day yatra starts today on the birth anniversary of socialist leader Jaya Prakash Narayan, who was from this part of Bihar. Mr Kumar’s participation in the inauguration of the yatra helps Mr Advani prove that among allies of his party, he is the preferred public face of the BJP. Mr Kumar has in the past barred the BJP’s Narendra Modi from campaigning in Bihar, mainly because Mr Modi has been accused of complicity in the communal riots of 2002 in Gujarat.
Mr Advani’s new yatra is devoted to fighting corruption – though how his 40-day journey across roughly 7000 kilometres will accomplish that is not entirely clear. There has been a rise in public anger and there is no doubt that the reason for such anger is the governance of the UPA,” he said yesterday. For weeks, the BJP has alleged that the union government, mangled by a series of financial scams, will not last its term. And as the BJP hits campaign mode, Mr Advani is first off the block.
He has so far been non-committal about whether he sees himself as his party’s candidate for Prime Minister in the next general elections. Mr Modi, who has been keen to promote himself to the national centrestage, was reportedly so upset with Mr Advani’s positioning plans, that he said the yatra could not begin from Gujarat. In the last few days, however, a truce has been managed, mainly because Mr Advani and he have found common ground in their opposition to Sanjay Joshi.
Removed from the party in 2005 over an MMS scandal, Mr Joshi was reinducted into the BJP in August. Mr Advani has reportedly told BJP President Nitin Gadkari to take into account Mr Modi’s grim resistance to the re-entry of Mr Joshi. However, Mr Gadkari and the Rashstriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which is the BJP’s parent body, believe that Mr Joshi’s noted organizational skills are key for the party as it gears up for elections.
During his yatra, Mr Advani will address rallies, interact with party workers and mingle with supporters. His ‘rath’ is crafted by none other than Dilip Chhabria, the czar of designer cars. It has a hydraulic platform, a high-tech audio system, all sorts of communication gadgets and enough space to sit and plan. An unlike his past yatras, this one has a theme song too.
But this time, the most prolific yatri of Indian politics will be watched more by his own party and its ideological fountainhead. The RSS wants Mr Advani to relinquish his Prime Ministerial aspirations and focus on mentoring younger leaders.