The senior BJP leader did not rule himself out of the party's prime ministerial sweepstakes at a press conference on Monday
Seems senior BJP leader LK Advani is clearing the grounds for his much touted rath yatra which will be launched on Tuesday from Sitab Diara in Bihar, the birthplace of Jai Prakash Narain. At a press conference on Monday the 83-year-old did not rule himself out of the party's prime ministerial sweepstakes as he slammed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for its "ethical decline".
Get set go: L K Advani with party leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma
Swaraj at a press conference on the eve of his Jan Chetna Yatra, in
New Delhi, on Monday. PIC/Imtiyaz Khan
The senior BJP leader also lauded the efforts of Team Anna and civil society organisations to create awareness on the issues of corruption, the Lokpal bill and black money. Advani, who is slated to cover around 300 km a day in his special rath or modified bus, said the yatra will mobilise public opinion on electoral and judicial reforms, black money and scams faced by the UPA government.
Up for PM's post?
On questions about his yatra being linked to the prime ministerial sweepstakes in the BJP, Advani did not give a categorical yes or no. "Who will be prime minister, the party will decide when the time comes. Three years are still left for the elections. However, the (UPA) government has been run in a way that it can fall anytime. People are tolerating it," he said. "There is no dearth of leaders (in the BJP capable of being prime minister)," he said.
Attacking the government, Advani said the leadership given by the UPA had made people unhappy and angry.
"The anger among people has been increasing due to price rise, corruption, black money. Deficiency in leadership by UPA government has led to lack of faith in the political leadership. The damage that the country's democracy has suffered during UPA, it had never suffered earlier," Advani said. Attacking the UPA for cash-for-votes scandal of 2008, he said it was a "turning point" in the image of the country's democracy. "There has been ethical decline in UPA's conduct of government... It has been principal reason for anger among people and scepticism about politics itself," he said.
Advani, who was flanked by party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, said his yatra will focus on "clean politics and good governance". Noting that he had raised the issue of black money during the campaign for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Advani said it will be a major issue during his yatra. He accused the government of suppressing details of those holding accounts in Swiss banks "to save embarrassment" to a few individuals and demanded that their names be made public.
Advani alleged that facts regarding Swiss accounts have been held back even from the Enforcement Directorate, and that the Income Tax department has been asked to quietly deal with the issue to bury it.
Advani said while judicial reforms should be aimed at efficiency, elimination of arrears and appointment of men of highest integrity, there was a need to curb excessive use of money power in elections and criminalisation of politics.
The Hazare angle
On the remarks of Anna Hazare's associate Arvind Kejriwal about supremacy of the individual over parliament, Advani said: "Parliament is the highest representative to people." Dismissing Congress leader Digvijay Singh's statement that the BJP intends to put Hazare as its presidential candidate, Advani said there had been no discussion on the issue in the party. He denied reports of rift with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and said he will take part in the yatra.
The distance Advani is expected to cover in his 38-day yatra