Akhilesh Das, the Congress candidate against Prime Minister A B Vajpayee in Lucknow before making way for noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani who decided to contest against his old friend after initial wavering, must be upset at the turn of events.
Nevertheless, Das, a Rajya Sabha member and son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Banarsi Das Gupta, says he will work for Jethmalani's victory. "Our motto is to defeat Vajpayee in Luckow," he added.
In an interview with Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, Das explained why the Congress is serious about taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party's biggest star.
Did you seek the Congress nomination from Lucknow when Jethmalani initially wavered?
Yes, I wished it very much. When Ram Jethmalani backed out, the Congress high command asked me to contest. I am thankful to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for choosing me.
So you must be upset that Jethmalani is back in the field and you are out.
Not at all. I abide by the decision of the Congress leadership, whatever it is. For the Congress, it is a question of defeating Vajpayee here.
But don't you think fighting Vajpayee will be a Herculean task?
Not at all. Look, I am a son of Lucknow. I have been the mayor of Lucknow. Compare what I have done for the city's development and what Vajpayee as prime minister has done for the city. The people of Lucknow have realised that Prime Minister Vajpayee has been a miserable failure as a member of Parliament. I am sure Ram Jethmalani will be a better MP than Vajpayee.
You agree that Vajpayee has been a success as prime minister?
As prime minister also, Vajpayee has been a failure. Whatever development he has brought to the country is all an extension of the previous Congress governments' various social and economic projects.
Tell me, where is India shining? Look at Uttar Pradesh. The people here do not have power, water, and food. The people do not have clothes to wear. That is why so many thousands of poor women came to beg for the saris that Lalji Tandon distributed. Why should women in India beg for a sari worth Rs 40 and get killed if India is shining?
BJP leaders accuse you of politicising a human tragedy.
Yes. We want to politicise this tragedy because the BJP wanted to play politics by distributing free saris to poor people. The Congress is happy at the manner in which the Election Commission has acted against the BJP.
Does the sari tragedy put the Congress in a position of advantage?
It came in handy for the Congress. This is a major issue we are taking to the people. The prime minister and the BJP are fooling the people.
Do you think the Congress will defeat Vajpayee?
I am confident the Congress will defeat Vajpayee. The tide is against Vajpayee in Lucknow and the BJP across the country.
It is said you are very close to Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Will he help the Congress with the Samajwadi Party's votes?
If Mulayamji is serious about his repeated statements that he will finish off the BJP in this election, he should support the Congress in Lucknow. This is a golden chance for all parties in UP to defeat Vajpayee in Lucknow.
Image: Rahil Shaikh