A month after he helped to flag off Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani's anti-corruption yatra from Sitab Diara, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar kick-started his own Sewa Yatra on Wednesday, amid much bowing and scraping among his Janata Dal (United) rank and file.
This programme, ostensibly aimed at assessing the polity's pulse, is Mr. Kumar's sixth in as many years. “The objective is to monitor and review issues which are vital to improving our governance,” he said while departing for Bettiah in West Champaran district, whence he will begin his campaign.
Unlike his previous travels, Mr. Kumar is tight-lipped about his itinerary this time, hoping to surprise his bureaucrats.
Mr. Kumar's move has already paid dividends, with district authorities and police officers scrambling to tie up the loose ends and crack down on anti-social elements.
He proposes to spend two to four days in each of the State's 38 districts, reviewing and monitoring the Central and State governments' schemes with special emphasis on the recently implemented Right to Public Services Act.
During his journey, which is likely to spread over 100 days in phases, the Chief Minister is expected to make surprise calls in each district, listening to the problems of the people, holding meetings with officials and reviewing a wide range of programmes.
Theories abound about the reason for the campaign. The popular one is that the Chief Minister has chosen the time to gain in a snap Lok Sabha poll that the current political scenario may produce.
The Chief Minister has undertaken five such ‘yatras' in the past, each carefully made at a strategic time with definite objectives. The first,billed as ‘Nyaya Yatra' (justice rally), was undertaken in July 2005 in protest against the then Governor Buta Singh's controversial decision recommending dissolution of the Assembly. The next two campaigns, ‘Vikas' (progress) and ‘Dhanyawad' (thanksgiving) yatras, were undertaken before and after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The ‘Vikas Yatra' resulted in the JD(U)-BJP combine bagging 32 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats.
The Prawas Yatra followed in December 2009, and the Vishwas (trust) Yatra came just before the 2010 Assembly elections. The cumulative result of this well-thought-out strategy was an unprecedented win for the National Democratic Alliance in the 2010 Assembly elections, with the JD(U)-BJP combine securing 206 of the 243 seats.