Friday, October 14, 2011

Advani yatra: Politics overshadows the mission

Manoj Chaurasia

BJP veteran LK Advani’s much-hyped rath yatra against corruption which began from socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan’s birthplace on October 11 may have passed off peacefully in Bihar as compared to his 1990 Ram Rath Yatra which was stopped midway and the yatri on the rath arrested by the then chief minister Lalu Prasad but this has brought into sharp focus many discrepancies. Especially, it has thrown much light on the kind of “relationship” between the partners in power, the JD-U and the BJP.

The first thing that was noticed by one and all was the way the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar behaved with the “host”, ie the BJP which is his junior alliance partner in power, during the launch as well as flagging-off ceremony of Advani’s yatra, giving no sign of having willingly chosen to be present at the function which was purely BJP’s.

Although it’s still not clear what exactly prompted Kumar to flag off Advani’s yatra yet he did not looked quite at ease among the saffron brigades on the dais despite the fact that BJP leaders and the crowds were more focused on the Bihar chief minister saying words of praises quite more frequently than the man who was there to kick-start his 7,600 km-long nation-wide tour against graft.

But instead of being thankful to the host who gave him so much respect, Kumar looked quite concerned despite sporting a smiling face and was often seen giving explanations to the crowds as to why he was there.

“I agreed (to flag off his yatra) because corruption is a burning issue today and Advani is embarking on his tour to create awareness among the masses about corruption”, he went on giving this explanation at both the public meetings that he addressed with a host of BJP leaders although his own JD-U leaders were conspicuous by their absence even though his party had officially declared its support to Advani’s yatra.

A peculiar situation arose when Kumar ~ apparently taking a cue from his arch-rival and Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi who was present neither in person not in BJP’s publicity materials anywhere in Bihar ~ refused to accept badge as well as a saffron shawl offered by the BJP.

He did so apparently out of apprehension that accepting those things could badly dent his carefully-cultivated “secular” image among his voters. Neither the BJP nor the JD-U has made any comment over the issue but the local TV footages bare it all.

TV grabs being aired on local news channels show Kumar on the dais without any badge on his kurta although every BJP leader sitting along side him in the front row are seen smartly sporting them.

Also many of the BJP leaders in the TV footages are seen sporting saffron coloured shawls around their neck in sharp contrast to Kumar who is seen keeping a white shawl.

Although the BJP leaders are tightlipped over the issue, reports in the local media say the Bihar chief minister was offered a white coloured shawl as he refused to accept saffron which is associated with the BJP.

Earlier, Modi, during the three-day goodwill fast in Ahmadabad held last month, had refused a skull cap offered by a sufi saint at the dais. Both Modi and Kumar are sworn rivals and are said to be strong contenders for the post of Prime Minister within the NDA.

Again Kumar was seen beckoning the labour resources minister in his government Janardan Singh Sigriwal and directing him to remove the flower pot put before him on a table kept at the dais which he hurriedly did but the message has not gone down well within the BJP. This happened at a public meeting which had been organized at the Chapra ground where Advani’s rath yatra was formally flagged off by the chief minister.

As if they were not enough, the chief minister also got removed a particular poster put on the dais depicting a crowned Advani sitting on a horse-driven chariot with a bow in hand in the role of Arjuna with Bihar chief minister as legendary Krishna driving the chariot, a typical reminiscent of the great war of Mahabharata.

Analysts say the Bihar chief minister did all that since he being a potential candidate in the race for the Prime Minister, does not want to be identified with the saffron forces fearing that could disturb his Muslim vote bank.

Last year, the chief minister had cancelled dinner which he had hosted in honour of the visiting BJP dignitaries during the party national executive meet organized at Patna and also returned Rs 5 crore cheque to the Gujarat government, forcing the Advani to make a caustic remarks at Kumar, at a public rally held at Gandhi Maidan the end of the meet, and recalling how he had greeted Kumar when he had come to attend the BJP convention at Mumbai.

The chief minister took the extreme step soon after the BJP inserted ads in the local newspapers showing Kumar shaking hands with Gujarat chief minister.

However, the present developments in Bihar have proved at least one thing that there is no permanent friend or foe in politics or perhaps, politics is the name of game most of which parts remain hidden from public eyes...

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