The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror cloud on yatra

Ahmedabad, Aug. 31: The unravelling of the plot to kill Narendra Modi seems to have cast a cloud on his gaurav yatra, scheduled to roll from September 3.

The Sangh parivar, however, is putting up a brave face. Jayanti Barot, convener of the yatra, said though the arrest of three terrorists who had plotted to kill Modi and VHP general secretary Pravin Togadia was a matter of concern, the BJP was not going to either cancel or reschedule its programme.

Although Barot admitted that he was worried about the chief minister’s security, he pointed out that “the security arrangements are to be made by the government and as a convener, it is not my headache”.

VHP state unit vice-president Kaushik Mehta said the “threat is real. We are really very concerned about it. But it is not just a question of Modi or Togadia. Everyone should be worried.” The VHP will meet soon to discuss the matter, he added.

Mehta said he had frantically tried to contact Togadia as soon as he learnt of the arrest of the three militants. Bhupendra Amin, the architect of the yatra, sent an e-mail to Modi, advising him to be “careful”. Barot spoke to the chief minister and expressed his concern.

Tension has been mounting in Phagvel — the starting point of the yatra — where state Congress president Shankersinh Vaghela’s supporters have organised a parallel programme on September 3. Students of the National Institute of Design, who were involved in designing Modi’s dream chariot, told Amin to convey to the chief minister that the rath was not safe.

The high-tech rath, equipped with a public address system, has a stage from where Modi is supposed to address the public. It has been designed in such a way that when the chief minister makes his speech, there will be no one else with him, not even security personnel, making him a vulnerable target.

Amin, however, downplayed the threat, saying: “We are not worried about the terrorist threat. What we are concerned about is the possible trouble that Vaghela is capable of creating.”

With Vaghela confirming that one lakh supporters would gather in Phagvel on September 3 to block the yatra, Amin has appealed to the BJP to shift the venue to Ambaji, a temple town in north Gujarat.

Asked how seriously Modi was taking the terrorist threat, Amin said: “He is not the kind of man who gets scared. I know his mindset. He is not disturbed at all. He will go ahead, come what may.’’

Amin claimed that the threat this time was much less than in 1991 when, as an ekta yatra co-ordinator, he had accompanied the then BJP national president, M.M. Joshi, to unfurl the Tricolour in Kashmir.

The VHP, however, is not sitting quiet and is likely to work out a strategy. As of now, none of the top state VHP leaders has sought police protection.

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