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Shine on lips, terror in air

Ramgarh, April 9: The sun blazed down on the motorcade as it snaked through the ridges and round the sharp bends, but fear hung like a brooding mist on the hundreds of gun-toting jawans.

Security had been beefed up along the route through the Ramgarh Valley for deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s Bharat Uday yatra after Wednesday’s Naxalite attack in West Singhbhum that killed 27 policemen.

Surprisingly, Advani, who is also the country’s home minister, did not mention the Baliba bloodbath in any of his speeches at Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Ranchi, Bharno or Gumla, where the yatra for the Jharkhand phase ended before rolling into Chhattisgarh.

The 100-km Hazaribagh-Ramgarh-Ranchi highway was deserted with residents of the Naxalite-dominated villages staying away. The only adults present on this road were the men in khaki. “These leaders should avoid bringing their cavalcade in such areas. They bring nothing but trouble,” said a jawan, tension written all over his face.

Apart from the policemen, there were three groups of schoolchildren who were made to line up in the searing heat to greet Advani and his bus. “We are following the orders of our headmaster,” said a student standing with his classmates near Ramgarh.

A handful of people, mostly BJP workers, greeted Advani when he went up to the dais on the Ramgarh football ground to deliver his speech. “Vote for Yashwant Sinha. By pressing the button in favour of Sinha, you will enable Atal Bihari Vajpayee to become Prime Minister once again,” Advani said. Ramgarh falls in the Hazaribagh constituency from where the foreign minister is seeking re-election.

More than half the ground was empty and those present included about 100 people accompanying Advani in over 30 vehicles, which formed part of the motorcade.

The scene was no different at Booti More, on Ranchi’s outskirts, where a motley crowd of mostly poor tribals heard him speak about how India was shining.

Advani must have been relieved to see a relatively big crowd in Ranchi. He spoke for more than 30 minutes, highlighting the “achievements” of the Vajpayee government and the good roads in Jharkhand.

“That the BJP can rule in a better way became evident the moment we entered Jharkhand through Koderma from Bihar last night. We hit the roads without potholes and ditches as we entered Jharkhand,” he said.

He did not mention the condition of the roads as his cavalcade moved towards Bharno and Gumla, south of Ranchi. It took about an hour to cover the 35 km to Bharno.

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