New Delhi : Is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani's anti-corruption yatra really mobilising people against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) or is it just the last hurrah of a veteran campaigner out to prove that he can still be a political gamechanger?
Political analysts differ on the success of Advani's roadshow but feel the arrest of the party's former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, three former Karnataka ministers and two of its former MPs in the cash-for-votes scandal has taken a lot of sheen off the campaign.
Former editor and commentator S. Nihal Singh said yatras as a political tool were of diminishing returns for Advani, who is nearly 84 years old and has embarked on his sixth cross-country journey.
He said apart from the momentum of the Ram rath yatra in 1990 "that led to the demolition of mosque and mob frenzy, other yatras have not been of great significance".
Nihal Singh said the BJP had faced some embarrassments during the Jan Chetna Yatra (public awakening march) when Yeddyurappa was sent to jail over allegations of corruption and party activists sought to "bribe" journalists at Satna in Madhya Pradesh to ensure good coverage for the road show.
"It (the yatra) started on a wrong note. It will not yield dividends...People have written it off," Nihal Singh told IANS.
He said Advani's efforts to highlight the issue of corruption had not evoked the desired impact among people. "How can you propagate such a thing when partymen (are) shown to be corrupt?" he said.
Nihal Singh said second generation prime ministerial aspirants in the BJP were apparently upset after Advani announced his yatra.
Chennai-based political commentator Cho Ramaswamy said that the yatra was attracting good crowds and BJP's message about the need to bring back black money was reaching people.
"It (the yatra) will bring political dividends though there will not be a dramatic swing in favour of the BJP," Ramaswamy said.
Citing the example of Tamil Nadu where the BJP is weak, Ramaswamy said there will be marginal improvement in the party's vote share.
"The yatra has caught the imagination of people and there will be some dividends," he said.
Rizwan Qaiser, associate professor in the Department of History, Jamia Millia Islamia, said there was not much to say about the yatra and the media had also lost interest.
"There is a media explosion and the masses are already aware of the issues. What is new? What new education can be given separately," Qaiser told IANS.
Qaiser said the issue of corruption should evoke a bipartisan response but every political party was raising it in a partisan manner.
BJP leaders see the 40-day yatra, which will pass through 23 states before its culmination in the capital Nov 20, as an opportunity to energise the party cadre ahead of the electoral battles next year. They also feel the party needs to keep itself prepared for the next general election which could be held before 2014.
The leaders said Advani's yatra will help the party in crystallising the mood against the UPA in the wake of the 2G spectrum scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal and the cash-for-votes controversy and the government's failure to contain price rise.
Advani, in his speeches since the yatra began Oct 11, has been unsparing in his attack on the UPA, describing it as the most corrupt government since independence and Manmohan Singh as the "weakest prime minister". He has also accused the UPA of "disarray and internal dissension" and "policy paralysis" and spoken of the need for electoral and judicial reforms.
A BJP leader said the yatra had evoked a good response but the "litmus test" will be Uttar Pradesh which will go to the polls next year.
BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay said the yatra symbolizes the aspirations and dreams of the common citizen who yearns for a transparent, honest government.
"It has put the government in the dock on the issue of corruption and black money. The nervousness of Congress leaders is evident as they are using strong language against the yatra and have no answer to questions being raised by Advani," Vijay told IANS.
Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad dismissed Advani's roadshow as the "teerth yatra (pilgrimage)" of an old man.
"It is old age. The BJP also wants to fulfill the dream of an old man and has sent him on his final teerth yatra," Hariprasad scoffed.
He also accused the BJP of hypocrisy, saying the BJP-ruled states Advani had travelled to were "neck-deep" in scams. He said Advani should have "carried out a purification yatra of BJP" instead of the Jan Chetna yatra. (IANS)