Lanes narrow, plans big for Advani yatra launch - Nitish will flag off campaign from nondescript village in Saran district where JP was born

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By NALIN VERMA
  • Published 25.09.11
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Patna, Sept. 24: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today announced that he will flag off L.K. Advani’s rath yatra from Sitab Diara in north Bihar’s Saran district — about 70km from here — on October 11, virtually dictating the contour of the senior BJP leader’s ambitious venture.

The much-vaunted yatra is slated to begin from “Kranti Maidan” near Lalatola — a part of the 27-tola (hamlets) Sitab Diara spread over in Saran and Balia districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh respectively. The yatra’s date coincides with the 109th birth anniversary of Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan.

The birth of JP is, apparently, caught in a web of claims and counter claims of the people of Sitab Diara hamlets settled right on the confluence of the Ganga and Ghaghra, also known as Saryu. The residents of the Lalatola — then a Kayastha-dominated village — claim that JP was born there.

According to the residents, JP’s father Harsudayal moved his family to Baburbani — a nearby tola in the same village that was in UP — only five days after JP’s birth because of an epidemic afflicting Lalatola. Harsudayal got a house built at Baburbani where the family had parts of its landed property.

It is Baburbani that socialist stalwart and former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar developed into Jaiprakash Nagar and set up JP memorial trust, preserving Loknayak’s ancestral house as a memorial and constructing guest house for social activists.

Nitish, ahead of the 2010 Assembly elections, visited Lalatola and addressed the people from Kranti Maidan (a field which JP had used to address a public gathering in 1974). The chief minister resolved to develop parts of Sitab Diara, falling in Bihar, and christen it as Jaiprakash Nagar.

The meandering Ganga and Ghaghra, besides eroding the landscapes at will and compelling the people to keep on shifting from one village to another or from Bihar to UP and vice-versa, have interfered with the geography of the area too.

Nitish might have given it his clearance but Advani’s yatra faces a roadblock as the Sitab Diara — mired in mud, marshy sand and water — is virtually inaccessible. One has to travel on a 5km-long narrow stretch — snapped at many places — along the banks of the Ghagra from Majhighat in Saran district to Sitab Diara. The plight is the same if the route from Balia (UP) is taken for the stretch along the Ghagra.

“We are very happy that Nitishji and Advaniji are coming to JP’s birthplace,” said Sheoji Singh, a Sitab Diara resident and official of the JP trust, adding: “We villagers do not divide ourselves on UP and Bihar lines. We feel we are inhabitants of the land of that great leader (JP). Moreover, we have many houses falling between UP and Bihar. Many of us have our doors in Bihar and kitchen in UP.”

“Perhaps, the complicated geography of Sitab Diara is a hurdle in the way of both the UP and Bihar governments in developing it,” said a Sitab Diara resident and JD(U) leader Yashwant Singh, adding: “Probably, the proposed yatra will somehow usher in development of the village.”

Some local leaders were also sceptic about UP chief minister Mayavati showing any interest in repairing road for the BJP’s campaign.

Local BJP leaders said that they would work on war footing to repair the road and ensure “grand success” of Advani’s campaign. But the fact remains that the stretch along the Saryu leading to Sitab Diara is too narrow to allow big vehicles to ply.

A big section of Bihar NDA leaders, however, feel that by flagging off the yatra, Nitish has, apparently, “endeavoured” to keep Advani’s yatra as a “purely” secular venture, free from the influence of Narendra Modis and their likes.

Nitish’s presence will ensure that Advani’s campaign against corruption is more a venture of the NDA than that of the hard-line BJP. The BJP will be able to keep the NDA’s unity intact by getting Nitish — supreme leader of the biggest partner of the party — flag off the yatra.

“BJP president Nitin Gadkari called me requesting me to flag off Advani’s yatra. I will flag off the campaign against corruption from Sitab Diara — the birthplace of JP, which I, otherwise also, had decided to re-visit. Moreover, we have taken many steps against corruption in Bihar,” Nitish said.

State BJP chief C.P. Thakur said that after Sitab Diara, Advani will have a night halt at Patna before setting off for Jehanabad and Gaya on October 12 and then entering Jharkhand. “The Bihar BJP leaders and cadres will accompany Advani in Bihar. He will travel to all the 28 states giving opportunities to leaders and workers of all other states to attend his yatra,” Thakur said.

Advani will leave for Jharkhand from Gaya.