The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India Shining catches a Bharat bus in II stages

New Delhi, March 2: After Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s India Shining drive, it is time for Lal Krishna Advani’s Bharat Uday Yatra — the deputy Prime Minister hits the road in a bus next week, travelling from Kanyakumari to Amritsar and from Porbandar to Puri in two phases over a month.

The yatra will start on March 10 and the first phase ends at Amritsar on March 26. After filing his nomination from Gandhinagar, Advani will set out on the second phase on March 30. The yatra ends on April 14, about a week before the first phase of voting in the general election.

With the Election Commission calling a halt to the Vajpayee-led government’s India Shining ad blitz, the BJP decided to sustain public memory of its “winning” slogan by naming the yatra Bharat Uday.

However, the larger implications of Advani’s Bharat Darshan — his fourth since 1990 — were not lost on political observers. With Vajpayee looming large over the BJP and national politics, it was felt that the deputy Prime Minister who had held sway for six or seven years was appearing “irrelevant”.

This was the result of the BJP’s policy to keep Hindutva out of its poll calculations for a while and give precedence to development and communal harmony. Vajpayee was seen as the more credible advocate of these ideas.

Although few doubt the deputy Prime Minister’s stranglehold over the BJP, the leadership structure places Vajpayee on top, Advani lower down and the fiercely competitive GeNext — M. Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj — a close third.

With about two months of electioneering left, party sources said Advani’s yatra was meant to serve two ends: relaunch the leader on the national stage and assess how popular he is, independent of brand Hindutva, and prevent the BJP’s own campaign from peaking too early.

Advani denied the yatra has a personal agenda. Asked if he expected it to catapult him to the number one position as the 1990 exercise had done, he said: “You were wrong then and you are wrong today.” Ayodhya will be one of the stops in the yatra.

For the first time, Advani will not be present when the BJP parliamentary board finalises the Lok Sabha candidates. But sources pointed out that the apex decision-making body is packed with his nominees.

The idea of the yatra was the deputy Prime Minister’s own, sources said. Mahajan, who is in charge of the election management and campaign committee, was asked by Advani to work out the logistics with the state units 10 days ago. The general secretary who had planned and executed Advani’s first Ram rath yatra informed Vajpayee. The final decision was taken at a meeting of the BJP’s core committee last night at the Prime Minister’s residence.

At a conference addressed by Advani and Mahajan today, the media was informed that the deputy Prime Minister would travel by bus. The vehicle was used by the infamous Dilip Singh Judeo and other BJP leaders for the Chhattisgarh poll.

Vajpayee’s involvement in the yatra, to be flagged off by Naidu in Kanyakumari, will be restricted to a public meeting in Amritsar and possibly one in Lucknow. The launch of the second phase on Ram Navami will be presided over by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

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