Bengal BJP to increase number of ‘raths’ in truncated yatra
With the Supreme Court fixing January 8 as the date for hearing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s plea to allow its rath yatra in Bengal, the state unit of the party has started planning a truncated yatra that can include five-six ‘raths’ as against three scheduled originally.
BJP’s Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh said on Thursday that they can settle for a fortnight-long programme instead of the original 42-day one. “We would still cover all 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state. On an average, every day there will be public meetings in three constituencies,” said Ghosh.
The BJP state chief also said that the only window during which the programme can be held is between January 16 and February 8. The party has already asked for permission from the Army to hold a public meeting at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground, where the Prime Minister will be the main speaker.
Permission has been sought for two dates January 29 and February 7. The armed forces are the custodian of the ground in the heart of Kolkata.
The rath yatra, formally known as Ganatantra Bachao Yatra, the party’s most spectacular event ever planned in the state, was originally supposed to be held for 40-42 days covering all 294 Assembly segments in the state.
The first yatra was scheduled to be flagged off on December 7 by party boss Amit Shah from Cooch Behar in north Bengal. All the party’s top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath were supposed to participate in the rally and address public rallies in Bengal.
The saffron party’s programme got stuck in Calcutta High Court where four orders were passed in a space of about two weeks prompting the party to appeal to the apex court.
“I think the yatra will not happen at all. Lord Jagannath does not want corrupt politicians to ride fake raths,” said senior Trinamool Congress leader Jyotipriya Mullick, who is also the food minister of the state.
A leader of Trinamool Congress said on condition of anonymity that in the Supreme Court the state would argue against permitting the yatra citing inadequate police force before January 19, when opposition leaders are supposed to converge in Kolkata to attend the mega rally being organised by Mamata Banerjee.
The state counsel is also likely to argue that the arrival of lakhs of pilgrims and tourists for the holy dip in the Gangasagar fair on January 14-15 will make it impossible for the state police to focus on a yatra of this magnitude.
The yatra also has to end by February 8 when a statewide ban on the use of microphones will come into effect in view of the class 10 and plus 2 level board exams in the state.