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Advani's yatra was a well-kept secret

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: March 02, 2004 15:31 IST
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The news of Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's decision to undertake a nationwide yatra was a well-guarded secret.

In fact, not even journalists close to the Bharatiya Janata Party knew of it.

When party general secretary Pramod Mahajan said on Monday that Advani would make an important announcement, most journalists thought that some senior Congress leader was crossing over to the BJP.

"We had been working on the project for the last ten days," Minister for Law and Justice and Commerce, Arun Jaitely, told after the press meet where Advani announced his decision.

Prakash Javadekar, who was asked to arrange the yatra, said that the party leadership wanted to spring a surprise.

Mahajan denied that the yatra had been planned as a counter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi's road show in Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. "There is no comparison between the road show and yatra. We certainly did not plan this in the last one or two days."

According to party insiders, the yatra was Mahajan's brainchild and he had been working on it for the past few months. Even some of the top leaders of the party did not know the details of the yatra until they saw Mahajan's presentation.

The insiders also said that recent reports by intelligence agencies had indicated that the BJP was not doing well. "One such report by the IB put both the Congress and BJP around the 125 mark. This rattled the party leadership because if they get less seats and the allies get more seats, then the prime ministership could go out of the party's reach. Hence this yatra," said one.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi