Bihar CM Nitish Kumar flags off veteran BJP leader LK Advani's sixth road campaign, which will last for 38 days
Calling for a "brighter India" free of corruption, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani yesterday rolled out his sixth road campaign, the Jan Chetna yatra, that will take him through 100 districts in 38 days -- and hopefully towards power in the next general election.
On a mission: Advani started his 38-day yatra from Patna and promised
people that he would help bring black money to the country from abroad
and also help restore people's faith in democracy. File pic/afp
Hoping to tap the discontent over corruption and the Manmohan Singh led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the 83-year-old Advani after much debate and controversy started his Jan Chetna Yatra or public awareness rally, from Sitab Diara, the birthplace of socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan.
From then on to Chapra, where it was formally launched by the BJP's key ally, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), and Patna, where 84 arches were set up to denote each year of his life.
As the BJP started its 12,000 km rally with an eye towards victory in the elections, the day was high on rhetoric and symbolism. Besides Nitish Kumar, senior BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were in attendance.
At Sitab Diara, about 150 km from here, the leaders garlanded a statue of Jayaprakash Narayan, whose call in the 1970s for a total revolution culminated in the emergency in 1975 and galvanised a disparate opposition when it was lifted two years later and elections were held.
Stating that he had found inspiration in JP, Advani recalled his contribution to the campaign against corruption and the emergency and said: "We want to remove despair and frustration among the common people and create confidence in them about about a brighter India."
Fight for democracy
He also promised, "My campaign will help bring black money to the country from abroad."
Targeting the government, he said, "People's faith in democracy and governance is eroding fast due to rampant corruption in the country during the UPA government."
Nitish Kumar added that Advani had been always at the forefront of the fight against corruption.
The public awareness campaign will see Advani cover about 300 km a day in his special rath or modified bus.
"I have always received support from my two families - personal family and the ideological family," he said before leaving.
"That has kept me fine in body and mind," he added, as if in response to speculation on how he would undergo the rigours of going through 23 states and four union territories in so short a time.
'For PM's post'
The Opposition was quick to debunk the party and its leader.
Congress MP and Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar said Advani had only one ambition in life and that was to become prime minister.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad said the Jan Chetna Yatra was an "insult" to the land of JP as the socialist leader was against BJP ideology.
Despite yatra, JP's village lies forgotten
The winds of change sweeping through Bihar have curiously left out a forgotten yet important part of the state -- the tiny village of Sitab Diara, the birthplace of legendary socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, which has been chosen by BJP veteran LK Advani as the starting point of his anti-graft march. Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP, is considered the doyen of the socialist movement in India.
But ironically, even as a number of his staunch followers have risen to prominence at both state and national level politics, Sitab Diara lies in a sorry state of neglect. Located some 150 km from Patna in Saran district it lacks basic amenities like clean drinking water, healthcare, roads and even electricity. The lack of development is even more glaring considering that just a few metres away, in Uttar Pradesh, a village named after him boasts of all amenities.
Over the years
>> Somnath-Ayodhya Ram Rath Yatra
The first Advani yatra was conducted for the building of the Ram temple.
>> Janadesh Yatra, 1993
This yatra was conducted to campaign against the Constitution 80th Amendment Bill and the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill
>> Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra, 1997:
The third yatra was to celebrate 50 years of India's independence.
>> Bharat Uday Yatra, 2004:
This yatra was an election-oriented campaign highlighting the 'shining' slogan
>> Bharat Suraksha Yatra, 2006
The yatra was to publicise the view that the UPA was not serious in crushing terrorism.