Rival political parties and social groups embarking on yatras with different objectives is a usual practice in a politically surcharged atmosphere when an electoral battle is close by, with Rajasthan being no exception. But the eagerness of the ruling Congress and Opposition BJP to start their respective yatras eight months before the State Assembly elections is somewhat baffling.
With the battle lines drawn for the polls due later this year, Congress launched its “Sandesh Yatra” this past week with the resolve to publicise the State Government’s developmental work and schemes implemented for people’s welfare. The BJP’s “Suraj Sanakalp Yatra” will be flagged off from Charbhuja temple in Rajsamand district on Thursday.
Political analysts here believe that both the Congress and BJP would try to sustain the tempo of their election campaign during the next eight months in an attempt not only to get people’s mandate but also to convince those sections which they believe are “on the edge” and waiting to come to the fold. These could be Muslims for the BJP and Gujjars for Congress. Even as it is the yatra time for the two major political parties, other groups have also launched smaller versions of expeditions that they hope would make them relevant in the political landscape and enable them to tilt the balance. Senior BJP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari has started his own “Deodarshan Yatra” and Gujjars have launched a “victory march” in support of their campaign for reservation.
Mr. Tiwari has been feeling disgruntled ever since the restructuring of the party’s State unit took place in February with the appointment of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as the State president. He launched his yatra last month and its second stage is set to start shortly with the obvious purpose of showing his strength to his competitors within the party.
The yatra of Gujjars has started from Charbhuja temple under the leadership of former Congress MLA Atar Singh Bhadana and Gujjar leader of Mewar, Deokinandan Kaka. It aims at putting pressure on the political parties for implementing five per cent reservation for Special Backward Classes. The yatra will wind its way through 72 Assembly constituencies and unite Gujjars and other communities included in the SBC category.
Ms. Raje had stormed to power in the State in 2003 after her successful Parivartan Yatra. Though the BJP plans to use modern appliances and social media extensively and has also prepared a hi-tech chariot for Ms. Raje, most of the participants in the yatra would be joining the march with the hope for getting ticket for candidature in the elections. BJP national president Rajnath Singh is scheduled to flag off the yatra.
The absence of senior leaders on the inauguration of Sandesh Yatra of Congress at the PCC headquarters has led to speculations about “internal strife” in the party. While the yatra is set to pass through the Jat-dominated northern Rajasthan districts of Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh and Churu in its second phase, none of the prominent State leaders has addressed the public meetings during the march.
Even the AICC general secretary in charge for Rajasthan, Mukul Wasnik, has been missing so far in the yatra, which will continue till June-end.
However, the PCC has announced that top leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would address rallies during the weeks to come.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has gone a step ahead and taken lead in declaring the first list of candidates for the Assembly elections.
The party has announced a list of 29 candidates in advance, saying the early declaration would enable the candidates to spend time with the people of their constituencies. According to BSP State chief Bhagwan Singh, the party is focusing on Rajasthan with full strength to improve its tally of six seats in the 2008 elections.