How yatras have turned the tide for Indian politicians at different times
If there’s a common thread through the political parties of India, it is yatras or long journeys clubbed with rallies, speeches and a political motive.india Updated: Sep 14, 2016 19:42 IST
As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi resumed his ‘Kisan Mahapadyatra’ on Wednesday, he continued a chapter to the country’s history of processions that often take a campaign to the voters’ doorsteps.
Parties of all hues have hit the streets with yatras or roadshows to rev up their message on topics like Ram Mandir issue and the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Gandhi is no greenhorn in yatra politics, and Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, remains his favourite ground. During the UPA regime he walked for days to reach farmers on the issue of land acquisition, and his party’s government supplemented his efforts by bringing a new land bill.
“For the past two years, Rahul has been walking in his yatras. It helps communicate with farmers and highlight their issues,” said K Raju, Gandhi’s key aide.
Yatras gave a new lifeline to the BJP in the early 1990s. Party patriarch LK Advani’s rath yatra on the Ram Mandir issue helped the BJP to achieve power at the Centre. That yatra was also identified by Advani’s rivals for arousing communal passions that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Political observers feel yatras have a unique appeal: leaders come to peoples’ doorsteps instead of the other way round. The grandeur of a yatra with a focused theme also helps connect better with the target audience.
The yatras also come in handy to divert attention from embarrassing issues. Amid the tussle in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Yadav family, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced a UP yatra on Wednesday.
While leaders such as J Jayalalithaa traveled in customised air-conditioned vans for road-shows, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son, Akhilesh, chose to ride a bicycle (his party’s symbol) for his yatra before the 2011 assembly polls in UP.
The Left parties have consistently hit the streets with their yatras on issues ranging from proximity to US’ imperialism to price rise.