Das’ exit precursor to deal with BSP for Lok Sabha seat?

May 6th, 2008 - 6:29 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Sharat Pradhan
Lucknow, May 6 (IANS) The resignation of former union minister Akhilesh Das from the Congress and the Rajya Sabha has come as no surprise to the Uttar Pradesh party leadership that is expecting him to join the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). “We could see it coming over the past few weeks since the colour of his hoardings, posters and banners had already acquired the blue hue of the BSP,” state Congress vice president Ranjit Singh Judeo told IANS.

Das quit the party and his Rajya Sabha membership Tuesday, pointing an accusing finger at the “power coterie” around Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The resignation, seen as the first spark of revolt against the functioning of Rahul Gandhi and those close to him, created a stir. Das, known for his proximity to the Gandhi-Nehru scion, declaring in New Delhi that he had “no faith in the Congress party”.

“There is a power coterie around Rahul and it is unfortunate that only that coterie can get access to Rahul,” Das said.

Das was dropped from the council of ministers in the cabinet reshuffle that took place last month and was replaced by another Uttar Pradesh MP, Jitin Prasada.

The buzz in political circles here is that Das, a former Lucknow mayor, made his move with the understanding that he would strike a deal with the BSP and contest for the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat on BSP ticket.

Evidently, Das had set his eyes on the seat ever since it became apparent that the ageing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha for four successive terms, would not be in the fray in the next general election.

According to sources, Das used his connection with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official Navneet Sehgal to swing the deal - Sehgal was private secretary to Das when he was union minister of state for steel and then moved to Lucknow as Mayawati’s secretary when she took over as chief minister.

His exit from the Congress was a foregone conclusion the day he was dropped from the Manmohan Singh ministry. Party insiders say that Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to show him the door after it became amply evident that Das was busy trying to strike a deal with Mayawati.

Even though political observers see Das’ dramatic resignation as a setback for the Congress party, senior leaders were prepared to take it in the stride.

“It is better to have a traitor out rather than have him devour the organisation from within,” said a leader of the state Congress who did not want to be named.

Interestingly, Mayawati is understood to have given her nod to the move although Das was considered close to her bete noir, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Das owed his entry into politics to Mulayam Yadav, whose support propelled him as mayor in the early 1990s.

In the absence of any political background, he skilfully used his late father, former state chief minister Banarasi Das, to get Congress ticket for the mayor’s election. However, realising that the Congress may not steer him through to the post, he also struck a deal with Mulayam Yadav.

In fact, he drove to Mulayam Yadav’s residence to touch his feet and take his blessings soon after being elected as mayor.

The period thereafter remained full of controversies over how he had violated the Lucknow Master Plan.

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