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‘Yatra politics’ gathers pace in Madhya Pradesh as election fever rises

Road shows have become the latest draw in the Madhya Pradesh, which is expected to go to polls later this year, so much so that these have come to be known as “yatra politics”.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2018 23:51 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during BJP’s Narmada Seva Yatra, which covered 15 districts.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during BJP’s Narmada Seva Yatra, which covered 15 districts.(HT File Photo)

The ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh will take out a road show named Kisan Samman Yatra to woo the farming community, the largest group of voters in a state that has witnessed deadly protests by farmers over dwindling income and rising debts.

Road shows have become the latest draw in the poll-bound state, especially over the past year, so much so that these have come to be known as “yatra politics”.

State BJP spokesperson Lokendra Parashar said their yatra’s aim will be to inform farmers about the government’s welfare schemes as well as seek their feedback. Top performing farmers will also be felicitated.

The event will begin at Baldev Dauji temple near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh on April 1 and move across MP and end on April 15. The shrine dedicated to god Balaram was chosen as he is considered one of the main deities of farmers, Parashar said.

The road show comes amid growing discontent among farmers ahead of the elections later this year in the state that the BJP has been ruling for three consecutive terms. The farm unrest escalated in June last year when five farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur as a protest over debt relief turned violent.

The BJP is going all out to buck anti-incumbency when the state votes for a new assembly that has 230 seats. The opposition Congress is also pushing hard to wrest power, planning a series of programmes that include yatras in the coming months.

Not wanting to be left behind, Congress general secretary in charge of organisation, Chandrika Prasad Dwivedi, said the party will hold road shows such as a Kisan Swabhiman Yatra from March.

Road shows have become a key part of the poll drive in the state, with parties taking out different yatras in a bid to strike a chord with the voters.

The state government held a 35-day Ekatm Yatra, or journey of oneness, dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya that ended a few days ago. But the event got mired in controversy as the Congress alleged that several district collectors “behaved like BJP workers” as they were seen placing the “charan paduka” or wooden slippers of the seer on their heads.

After the Mandsaur farmer stir, both parties had taken out yatras. The state government organised a Vikas Yatra to showcase its welfare schemes and reach out to people, especially farmers, in November last year.

Barely five months after CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Narmada Seva Yatra, which covered over 15 districts, former chief minister Digvijaya Singh of the Congress took out a six-month Narmada Parikrama, circumambulation of the Narmada river, from September last year.

The political barbs are flying over these events. State Congress spokesperson KK Mishra asked what was the need to take out yatras if the BJP had ushered development in the past 14 years? “The fact is that Chouhan is getting unnerved by Digvijaya Singh’s Narmada yatra,” he said.

The BJP countered that it has every right to take out yatras. State party spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya said chief ministerChouhan doesn’t need anybody’s permission to take out a yatra to showcase his government’s development work and achievements.

According to journalist and political observer NK Singh, Singh’s march could become a rallying point for the Congress, but its impact has to be seen. “Chouhan being a chief minister cannot have luxury of taking out a long yatra on foot like Singh,” he said.