Delhi in mind, Advani starts yatra from Bihar

Patna, Oct 11 (IANS) Calling for a 'brighter India' free of corruption, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Tuesday rolled out his sixth road campaign, the Jan Chetna Yatra, that will take him through 100 districts in 38 days - and hopefully closer towards power in the next general election.

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 Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) - the BJP's key, rulling ally - Advani went to Patna, where 84 arches were set up to denote each year of his life.

Advani addressed a rally in Patna late Tuesday where he said his party will force the government to bring back illegal money stashed abroad.

He asked people to take an oath that they would oppose graft and rising prices, and said that enthusiasm of people was unprecedented.

As Advani started his yatra with an eye on victory in the elections ahead, the day was high on rhetoric and symbolism. Besides Nitish Kumar, other senior BJP leaders were in attendance. Advani's daughter Pratibha was also accompanying him.

At Sitab Diara, about 150 km from Patna, 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, as Jayaprakash Narayan was popularly called, 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 a brighter India.'

Targeting the Congress-led central government, he said: 'People's faith in democracy and governance is eroding fast due to rampant corruption in the country during the UPA government.'

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will give leadership for the progress of the country in the 21st century as it did in Bihar in the past six years, he added.

As he moves from state to state, Advani will be making these points repeatedly in the hope that the talk hits the electoral bulls-eye.

Nitish Kumar added that Advani had been always at the forefront of the fight against corruption.

After all, the Jan Chetna Yatra, which was reportedly earlier supposed to begin from Gujarat, the land of hardline Hindutva leader Narendra Modi, had been moved to his state. Clearly, Advani had consciously chosen him as he strove for a pan-India appeal in this fight against the UPA.

Political analysts feel that Advani chose popular themes like corruption and black money to avoid any controversy, as during his 1990 campaign for a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

Advani has since been on five similar campaigns for varying causes, but none as successful as the Somnath-Ayodhya Ram Rath Yatra.

The public awareness campaign will see Advani cover about 300 km a day in his special rath, a modified bus.

'I have always received support from my two families - personal family and the ideological family,' he told reporters at his New Delhi residence before leaving.

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 the prime minister.

Another Congress leader, Shakeel Ahmed said Advani and Kumar should clarify why Bihar was chosen for the yatra instead of Gujarat or other BJP-ruled states.

'L.K. Advani should clarify his choice of state for his yatra...He (Kumar) has always distanced from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi following the infamous Godhra incidents. Has the Bihar chief minister forgotten that Advani is one of the charge sheeted persons in the Babri Masjid demolition?' Ahmed said.

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.

After an overnight stay in Patna, Advani would move to Danapur and then to Ara and Buxar before entering Uttar Pradesh.