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Narendra adopts Swamiji for rath yatra

Ahmedabad, Sept. 8: Chief minister Narendra Modi will embark on a month-long “rath yatra” from September 11, three months ahead of Assembly polls in Gujarat.

Modi’s state-wide peregrination, on the same motorised chariot that L.K. Advani had used for his yatra last year, will cover the 182 Assembly segments.

BJP sources said the accent of the roadshow — Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra — would be on an icon like Swami Vivekananda, a personality the Sangh parivar had for years tried to co-opt into its pantheon of “Hindu” greats.

The RSS and the BJP see the monk as a “pragmatic spiritualist and a philosopher” who “dreamt big” for India.

The Gujarat government has already embarked on a series of events to commemorate Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary. Modi’s Twitter page quotes an aphorism from his writings every day. In the past, he used local “swamis” like Asaram Bapu and Murari Bapa to reinforce his “Hindutva credentials”. With these “swamis” enmeshed in controversies and cases, the sources said Modi decided to turn to history for a figure “revered” even today.

The sources said the inclusion of “yuva”, or youths, in the yatra’s name defined the chief minister’s principal target group in the next election.

An aide said Modi had decided to focus on youths, aware that sections of the older generation had been put off by his alleged unilateral style of functioning and overweening stress on a neo-liberal economic model that brushed aside concerns over land acquisition.

“They want jobs, prosperity, a good quality of life that can come only if a leader gets his priorities right. Narendrabhai has got them right and young people know that,” the aide claimed.

“Vikas”, or development, is the third component in the message the yatra seeks to convey. That, Gujarat BJP sources said, implied that Modi’s discourse is expected to be short on “emotions” and expansive on “bread-butter” issues.

Modi’s choice of the venue to flag off his political sojourn was deliberate, the sources said. It was Becharji in Mehsana district where Maruti will set up its new plant. In the recent past, Gujarat has become an auto hub and Modi wants his state to pip the other auto centres, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, to the winning post.

BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh will be present when Modi’s yatra rolls. It will end on October 11 to coincide with Jayaprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary.