Atiq Khan

He was a liability, it is good for the party that he has gone, says Uttar Pradesh Congress president

Party appears determined to settle a few political scores with its detractors

Acting presidents of Lucknow city and district units of the party appointed

LUCKNOW: With Akhilesh Das’s exit from the party, the Congress has started making calculations for fielding a strong candidate from Lucknow in the next Lok Sabha elections in the hope of wresting the coveted seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Considered one of the VIP constituencies in the country, Lucknow is represented in the Lok Sabha by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Mr. Vajpayee’s unbroken stint as the MP from Lucknow has continued since the 1991 Lok Sabha polls. Ironically, in the 2004 general elections, the Congress had first given the ticket to Mr. Akhilesh Das, who also filed his nomination, but was later asked to withdraw his candidature in favour of Ram Jethmalani, who eventually fought the election as the Congress-supported candidate.

This time round, however, the Congress appeared determined to settle a few political scores with its detractors, chiefly the former Union Minister, who in his resignation letter had attacked Rahul Gandhi. Though these are still early days for the Congress to finalise the candidate’s name for Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, told newspersons on Wednesday that the potential candidate would be an experienced and serious political person. Ms. Joshi claimed that the Congress has a fair chance of winning the seat.

Joshi’s charge

Her optimism seemed based on the number of votes garnered by the party candidate, Manzoor Ahmed, in the mayoral elections in Lucknow in 2006, which he lost by 34,000 votes. Ms. Joshi said Mr. Ahmed came close to upsetting the BJP nominee, Dinesh Sharma’s applecart, but for Mr. Das. The UPCC president alleged that the former MP plotted the defeat of the Congress candidate since he had not imagined the kind of support Mr. Ahmed would get from the people of Lucknow.

Even as the UP Congress chief admitted that Mr. Das’s politics was centralised in Lucknow, she said even in the distribution of tickets for the Assembly seats in Lucknow he ensured that none of the (party) candidates won. “Akhilesh Das was a liability, it is good for the Congress that he has gone”, Ms. Joshi added.

It has been almost a quarter-century since a Congressman won the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow. Eighteen of the 25 years have been consumed by Mr. Vajpayee, who is now in his fifth uninterrupted term as the MP from here.

Former Union Minister Sheila Kaul was the last Congress winner from here back in 1984. The polls were held shortly after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.

The winner in the 1989 election was Mandhata Singh of Janata Dal.

Meanwhile, the PCC president has appointed Shyam Kishore Shukla and Siraj Wali Khan as acting presidents of Lucknow city and district units of the party, respectively. They replace Achal Mehrotra and Bipin Bihari Shukla, who resigned on Tuesday.