Have a pakoda & go on yatra

Union home minister Rajnath Singh flags off the Jal Mitti Rath Yatraat India Gate in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: The home minister of the country on Wednesday flagged off a rath yatra from Delhi to collect water and soil from the four holy corners of the country to "build the nation".

Less than 24 hours earlier, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had set another rath rolling from Ayodhya, aimed indirectly at harnessing public support for building a grand Ram temple.

The two rath yatras being organised by non-government organisations have been timed to coincide with the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections next year and bound by planks that the Sangh parivar has been associated with.

The BJP's managers believe the rath yatras are also part of the larger electoral plan to keep the Hindutva pot simmering to surmount the unrest among a large mass of people because of economic reasons. Agriculture is in distress, and the Prime Minister has flagged the sale of pakodas as a job avenue.

"This rath yatra is different from other rath yatras. It is not to make or unmake any government. It is to build the nation," home minister Rajnath Singh said as he flagged off the "Jal Mitti Rath Yatra" from India Gate.

The government wants to make India a "world guru", the minister added.

Although the home minister sought to underscore that the yatra had nothing to do with politics and was aimed at nation-building, the underlying Hindutva-laced tone of the effort was hard to miss.

The yatra is being sponsored by the BJP MP from East Delhi, Mahesh Girri. It plans to collect water and soil from " char dham" (the four key pilgrimage sites of Hindus) to organise a massive yagna next month outside the Mughal monument Red Fort to exorcise "internal and external conspiracies" in the path of a "New India".

Initially, it was assumed that Girri was organising the event to buttress his chances of getting an election ticket. But the appearance of one of the senior-most ministers has fuelled suggestions that the government has found an ideal propaganda vehicle.

Prime Minister Modi has already asked ministers and party leaders to launch a campaign about welfare schemes announced in the budget. But BJP leaders feel that so far, the budget has been unable to excite the common man. Against this backdrop, the yatra and the allied events are expected to come in handy as an alternative option to enthuse the BJP's vote banks.

"The thrust of the government and the party will be on pro-poor schemes while the other wings of the parivar will focus on Hindutva," a BJP leader said.

The Ayodhya yatra has also been positioned with care. The stated objective is to usher in "Ram Rajya", an ideal society run on the principles of Lord Ram. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the land dispute from next month.


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