Thursday, Aug 29, 2002
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By Manas Dasgupta
Both Mr. Modi and Mr. Waghela have functions in the same village the same day, September 3, with Mr. Modi launching his `rath yatra' from the Bhathiji Maharaj temple and Mr. Waghela presiding over a ceremony for the `dhwaj aarohan' (change of flag) in the same temple.
Though the timings are different the flagging off of the `rath yatra' is scheduled at 9.30 a.m. and the `dhwaj aarohan' at 5 p.m. the fact that a large number of supporters of the two main rival parties would be converging on the small village the same day is causing concern to the State and the district authorities.
The village of about 15,000 people, mostly Kshatriyas, known for the Bhathiji Maharaj temple, has suddenly assumed importance because of the BJP's decision to launch the `rath yatra' from Phagwel, changing from the temple town of Ambaji as scheduled when the `yatra' was originally planned in July.
The legend is that Bhathiji Maharaj, a Kshatriya, sacrificed his life some 450 years ago trying to save a herd of cattle being forcibly taken by the Muslim invaders to a slaughter house. The village in Kathlal taluk is part of Mr. Waghela's Kapadvanj Lok Sabha constituency.
Mr. Waghela claimed that the `dhwaj aarohan' ceremony was finalised long ago immediately after he was appointed the PCC president and that the BJP had `deliberately chosen' the same day and place to create a situation of confrontation. He said the villagers had planned the ceremony if he was made the PCC president and had accordingly decided the date in July.
The BJP leaders, in turn, pleaded ignorance about Mr. Waghela's programme and claimed that the date must have been fixed only after the party announced its `yatra' programme earlier this month. It accused the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, of trying to set the two parties on a confrontation course.
Mr. Waghela, a prominent Kshatriya leader, said in reply to a question that he was not interested in any confrontation and would request the temple trust to change the date if possible. ``But if they insist, I will have to go and attend the ceremony.'' The BJP is firm on going ahead with the `yatra' and has launched full-scale preparations to make it a success. A party spokesman claimed that about a lakh of people from the nearby areas would come to the village.
Mr. Waghela wondered why the BJP had selected Phagwel. Apparently, it was aimed at wooing the Kshatriyas, a strong support base for the Congress. The temple trust as well as the local sarpanch have advised the BJP against launching it from Phagwel. The `Bhathi Sena', formed by the local people to work for the protection of the cow, has also decided to oppose the `yatra', and if necessary, `block' its way from the village.
The worried district authorities have not only sought additional police assistance to maintain law and order on the day, they are also considering imposing prohibitory orders to avoid any confrontation.
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