The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP’s Rajasthan campaign rolls

Charbhuja (Rajasthan), April 27: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today launched the BJP’s Assembly poll campaign in the state by flagging off a Parivartan Yatra in this temple town after a public rally.

Charbhuja, in Rajsamand district, adjoining Udaipur, is 20 km from Kumbhalgarh, the birthplace of Maharana Pratap.

The campaign kick-off here carries cultural, religious and political significance. The BJP has started its battle against the Congress in the ruling party’s biggest bastion of Mewar (Udaipur), where the party won 30 of the region’s 32 seats in the last Assembly polls.

The BJP also netted a Congress catch when Vishnu Modi, a former MP from Ajmer, joined it.

State BJP chief Vasundhara Raje is expected to cover all 200 constituencies in the state during the 70-day Yatra on a specially designed, air-conditioned “rath (chariot)” built on a truck.

During the rally that preceded the Yatra, there were no references to Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia or his trishul diksha (trident initiation). Religious slogans devoted to deities of the region, formerly known as Udaipur princely state were, however, raised.

Though junior leaders made passing references to the state ban on trishuls, they clammed up once Advani arrived.

In a departure from the norm, BJP leaders at the rally, including general secretary in charge of Assembly polls Pramod Mahajan, steered clear of “Hindutva”. Mahajan said the Yatra was devoted to putting a smile on the faces of the people, who were suffering under the Ashok Gehlot government’s misrule, and not aimed at changing the state administration or ensuring a BJP victory.

Advani said: “I, as a rule, don’t publicly criticise any state government.” But he could not resist a dig at Gehlot when he urged the chief minister to introduce credit cards for farmers before losing power.

The Centre, he said, had provided unprecedented assistance to drought-hit states, including Rajasthan, during 2002-03.

“While the Vajpayee government had given free wheat to the state, the Gehlot government said it had no money for its transportation,” Mahajan said.

Mentioning the reported starvation deaths in the state, he urged the people to usher in “parivartan (change)” and remove an “anti-people” government.

“Vasundhara Raje has decided to travel the state, braving the heat of the desert, to go to the people, not as a queen of the former Dholpur state but as didi to wipe the tears of the suffering masses,” Mahajan said.

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