Shortly after the Ekta Yatra of the BJP started off from Kanyakumari yesterday, I scrambled on to the rath of Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi to interview him.
"What do you expect to gain from this Kanyakumari-to-Srinagar yatra, Doctor?" I asked.
"Well, I do not wish to sound overoptimistic, but I think it should put the BJP into the seat of power at the next elections," Dr. Joshi said, waving to the crowds of BJP supporters on both sides of the road.
"Rather than go through this long and arduous journey and put yourselves to show much trouble, apart from burningup petrol and diesel, could you not have won the elections through some more conventional means, such as booth capturing and casting bogus votes?"
"Well, yes, of course, we could have. Other parties and candidates, including those who get themselves into the Guinness Book of Records, do it all the time. But the BJP does not believe in short-cuts. If believes in service to the people, and there is no greater service than sitting in a boat-shaped rath and going across the country."
"Apart from the ultimate election gains, what would you say are the immediate gains of the Ekta Yatra, Doctor?" I asked.
"Well, since this rath started moving an hour back, we have already increased out vote-bank in Tamil Nadu by one lakh votes," he said. "This is just a rough estimate, you understand. This will be followed by at least half a million votes in Kerala. And, yes, we expect to do particularly well in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh."
"Dr. Joshi, what sort of problems and hardships do you expect to face on your long and difficult journey and what preparations have you made to meet them?"
"Well, since we are not going to Ayodhya, we are not expecting any major problems. However, we are prepared to shed the last drop of our blood to overcome any difficulties that may be placed in the way of the yatra," he said. "You may quote me on that."
"May I inquire why you are not going to Ayodhya?" I asked.
"Ayodhya was for the 1990 elections, this yatra is for the 1992 elections," Dr. Joshi explained.
"It is feared that the passage of the boat-shaped rath along certain routes may anger people and cause riots. Any comments?"
"These are stories spread by other parties which do not want the BJP to win the lections," Dr. Joshi said. "I would advise the public to take no cognisance of such stories."
"One last question. Will the Ekta Yatra unite the people of India?"
"Most certainly it will unite them, so long as they are Hindus," Dr. Joshi said.