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Advani yatra to reclaim Oppn space from Anna

BJP patriarch LK Advani sought to recapture the anti-corruption campaign from “apolitical” social activist Anna Hazare as he launched his Jan Chetna Yatra from the late socialist icon JP Narayan’s birthplace in Chhapra, Bihar on Tuesday. Vikas Pathak & Vijay Swaroop report. Date with history | Column: Take the poll test | Listen to podcastpodcast

delhi Updated: Oct 12, 2011 08:52 IST

BJP patriarch LK Advani sought to recapture the anti-corruption campaign from “apolitical” social activist Anna Hazare as he launched his Jan Chetna Yatra (People’s Awareness Campaign) from the late socialist icon Jaya Prakash Narayan’s birthplace in Chhapra district of Bihar on Tuesday.

Signalling his intention to check civil society from assuming the role of the primary opposition to the ruling establishment, Advani called for restoration of people’s confidence in the political system.

Comparing Hazare with the late Jaya Prakash Narayan (popularly known as JP), the BJP leader had said on Monday that the latter had always given primacy to political parties and never asked them to stay away from people’s movements. Listen to podcastpodcast

The BJP veteran visited JP’s house in Sitabdiara village in Chhapra for 25 minutes with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and garlanded his statue. People watched from rooftops as Advani emerged from the house, which has seen two of its five rooms collapse over time. The village had its first tryst with electricity earlier in the morning when Kumar brought power to it. Advani hints he's still in PM's race

BJP posters at the spot, surprisingly, depicted JP, who was never a Jan Sangh or BJP leader, on top of party leaders and Nitish Kumar.

Advani, the Hindutva icon of yesteryear, was seen attempting an image makeover as a consensual symbol of clean governance at a time when corruption has taken political centrestage.

That Nitish Kumar – hailed by many as a secular chief minister — flagged off the yatra is significant as this made Advani come across as more acceptable within the BJP-led national democratic Alliance (NDA) than Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, his potential rival for the next prime ministership of the country.

Advani’s attempt to shed his hardline Hindutva image will not be easy as he still reminds people of the Ram Rath Yatra that polarised communities violently two decades ago.

Nitish Kumar obliquely hinted at this when he said: “You (Advani) may have undertaken other kinds of yatras earlier but this is purely on corruption and black money. But some people are trying to see other things in this yatra. How can a yatra against corruption be communal?”

Advani will cover a distance of 7,600 km as he travels to 27 states — some of them scheduled to hold elections next year — in the next 38 days. Modi's open letter

Also read: Sitabdiara's second date with history

First Published: Oct 11, 2011 08:23 IST