The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi back in yatra mode

Ahmedabad, Aug. 17: Chief minister Narendra Modi is again doing what he is best at — embarking on a yatra, the political significance of which he realises.

It began with L.K. Advani’s Ram rath yatra in 1990. BJP insiders say Modi was the brain behind Advani’s much hyped yatra and Modi had actually worked out the programme.

After his highly controversial and hugely successful gaurav yatra in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year, the chief minister is set to go on yet another yatraviranjali yatra — on August 24.

Modi, who left for London today for a week–long tour to meet prospective investors and industrialists in the UK and Switzerland, will bring back the urn containing the ashes of freedom fighter Shyamji Krishna Verma and his wife preserved at a museum in Geneva.

It has been proposed that to carry around the urn (containing the ashes of the freedom fighter who died in Geneva in 1930), the viranjali yatra is to pass through 18 districts — from south Gujarat, central Gujarat and Saurashtra — before it is handed over to the Verma family in Mandvi, a coastal town of Kutch district, in Advani’s presence on September 4.

BJP national president M. Venkaiah Naidu is also expected to participate in the yatra, said party sources.

Hype, reminiscent of Modi’s guarav yatra, is being created by the BJP. The Kutchhi Samaj and citizen’s committees are being roped in to welcome the yatra. On August 24, when Modi reaches Mumbai with the urn, he will be received by Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi.

The late freedom fighter had in his deed, also preserved in the museum in Geneva, expressed the desire to be cremated in India after the country gets freedom. “But even 56 years after Independence, the Congress did not bother to fulfil the wishes of the greatest freedom fighters,” the chief minister had regretted a few days before he left for his European tour.

For a change, the Opposition Congress party sees nothing wrong with Modi’s move. A defensive Congress has not criticised Modi for embarking on another yatra. When contacted, Congress spokesman Hasmukh Patel said: “We have nothing to say. We think what Modi is doing is good.”

BJP state president Rajendrasinh Rana insists that there will be no attempt to politicise the yatra. However, party insiders admit that the BJP hopes to gain from the patriotic fervour that the yatra is likely to generate.

Accompanied by his secretary, A.K. Sharma, the chief minister will meet NRIs, Gujarati families and organisations in London, Zurich and Geneva from August 17 to 23.

During his stay in London till August 20, he will attend the functions organised by the Kutchhi Leuva Patel Samaj and Friends of Gujarat, hold a dinner meeting with heads of prominent London-based organisations, meet industrialist and investors.

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