Ahead of Lok Sabha polls, it is yatra time in Bihar

January 25th, 2009 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Jan 25 (IANS) Politicians in Bihar have begun to march for votes. With general elections a few months away, it is once again ‘yatra’ time in Bihar.After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Vikas Yatra (development march), his political rival, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, is to launch a padyatra (walkabout), to be followed by another yatra by central Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, sources said.

The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad is set to launch its padyatra early February to counter the Vikas Yatra that Nitish Kumar launched Monday. The RJD march will begin from West Champaran district and be led by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi and others, including central ministers of the party.

Two days ago, Lalu Prasad had charged the chief minister with trying to “copy” him in holding the yatra to gain popularity.

The RJD padyatra will go to all villages to expose the “failures of the Nitish government”.

Nitish Kumar’s Vikas Yatra is aimed at getting first-hand information about development works initiated by his government in rural areas and to hear people’s grievances personally. He is camping overnight in villages to provide an opportunity to villagers to tell him their grievances and monitor the implementation of different schemes.

The chief minister launched his march from Bagaha in West Champaran district, a significant venue as it was the same district where Mahatma Gandhi had launched his first civil disobedience movement in India against British rule.

Kumar has been camping in villages, every 25 to 30 km, and spending hours in meeting villagers before reviewing development schemes with officials. Sources in the chief minister’s office said that the first phase of the yatra will continue till February and resume after the general elections are over.

A team of officials is accompanying Kumar to assist in passing instructions and reporting on the implementation of developmental projects.

The RJD and the Congress have scoffed at the Vikas Yatra as a ‘nautanki’ (drama) and criticized Kumar for spending millions of rupees on it.

However, the chief minister has denied that the march has anything to do with the coming elections and said it was directly related to governance.

Lalu Prasad, known for his rustic lifestyle and witty one-liners, will interact with villagers in rural areas during the padyatra, hoping to counter Nitish Kumar’s march and highlight the United Progressive Alliance central government’s achievements in the last five years.

RJD national spokesperson Shyam Rajak said that the padyatra is to begin Feb 2 or 3 from Bittiharwa in Champaran, where Mahatma Gandhi launched the indigo movement on the call of noted lawyer from Bihar R.K. Shukla in 1917.

The RJD’s padyatra would culminate in Patna Feb 17, coinciding with the death anniversary of former chief minister Karpoori Thakur, known as the leader of social justice in Bihar.

Sources in the LJP said party chief Ram Vilas Paswan would also launch a political yatra to communicate with the masses ahead of the parliamentary elections. “After Nitish and Lalu’s yatra, Paswan will not lag behind to meet and interact with people through a yatra,” a senior LJP leader said here.

Before coming to power in Bihar, Nitish Kumar launched a Nyay Yatra (March for Justice) in 2005 that worked in his favour.

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