The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amused Advani road-ready in new avatar

Kanyakumari/New Delhi, March 9: A day before his rath rolls on the 8,000-km Bharat Uday yatra, charioteer L.K. Advani sneered at Opposition remarks that his countrywide campaign would fan communal passions.

“The Opposition reaction is predictable. It amuses me,” Advani told reporters before leaving for saffron-draped Kanyakumari that waited with his vehicle — a hi-tech air-conditioned bus belonging to Dilip Singh Judeo — in the ready.

Advani was accompanied by his family and party colleagues Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan and Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The 79-year-old leader said he was looking forward to the “8,000 km of exhilarating journey” and allayed the fears, saying he would spread the message of stability and good governance under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Reacting to Opposition criticism on the ground that his two roadshows — in 1990 and again seven years later — had left behind a trail of riots, Advani said: “Earlier when I undertook yatras, I was in the Opposition and would focus on criticism of the then governments. But this time, I am approaching the people with the good track record of the Vajpayee government.”

The first leg of the tour will end in Amritsar. After a brief break, Advani will head for Puri from there.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu also refuted impressions of any communal overtones in the roadshow, saying in Chennai that more and more minorities are coming to support the yatra.

“This will be a historic turning point in the annals of the nation,” Naidu said today before admitting former petroleum minister Vazhapadi K. Ramamurthi’s son, Suganthan, into the BJP. Dheeran, a breakaway leader of the PMK, also joined with his followers.

At the function, former cricketer Krishnamachari Srikkanth announced he would campaign for the party and its allies.

Kanyakumari is teeming with policemen who have thrown a cordon around the maidan near Kerala House from where the deputy Prime Minister will launch his yatra.

The kickoff point has been chosen with care. Though Kanyakumari comes under the Tiruchendur Lok Sabha seat being contested by ally ADMK, it is blessed with several symbols — the confluence of three seas, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial where the sage dreamt of a modern, resurgent India and the Mahatma Gandhi memorial. It fits the BJP’s bill of an “ideal spot” to start the yatra and will help to keep Jayalalithaa in good humour.

Only after the show here will Advani enter Nagercoil, which has been allotted to the BJP.

But Jayalalithaa did not return the gesture, launching a two-month roadshow in Chennai a day before Advani. She will tour all the 40 constituencies in the state and the lone seat in Pondicherry, which go to polls in the last phase on May 10.

Her first stop was Maduranthankam, a temple town 75 km from Chennai, where she met the 33 ADMK candidates.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi also kicked off his party’s campaign by introducing the 15 candidates at an impressive rally in Chennai this evening.

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