BSP, Cong eye Lucknow LS seat; BJP jittery

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New Delhi, May 25: With former Prime Minister and BJP veteran leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee unwilling to contest the next Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress are eyeing the Lucknow seat, giving jitters to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mayawati-led BSP has made its intentions clear that former Union Minister Akhilesh Das, who recently quit the Congress, would contest from the Lucknow seat. Congress, looking to encash the public support it received in last year's mayoral elections, too is trying to rope in rebel Samajwadi Party leader and cine personality Raj Babbar to contest from the prestigious seat.

The BJP leadership is hoping that Mr Vajpayee would contest the LS polls, at least this time.

''Vajpayeeji has not said a final no,'' claimed a senior BJP leader, adding that the party had not decided to field someone else from the Lucknow seat. ''If Akhilesh Das has joined BSP, it does not mean we are feeling the heat,'' he stressed.

In last year's assembly elections, the BJP had maintained its grip on the UP capital, puncturing Congress' hopes to make a dent in Lucknow.

''The mayoral elections have proved that we can win future elections,'' said a UP Congress General Secretary who was in the National Capital recently.

Though the BJP had won the mayoral elections, Congress had gained in the number of votes polled.

Akhilesh Das, when in Congress, was asked to withdraw from the LS contest in 2004 in favour of lawyer Ram Jethmalani who stood as an Independent with Congress backing.

A former Lucknow Mayor, Das has nurtured the constituency with hopes to contest the LS polls. His support base in Lucknow, coupled with BSP's new found Dalit-upper caste card, Das can now hope to make it big.

The BSP has most of the time finished third as it lacked a strong support in the urban constituency.

Vajpayee had won from Lucknow for the first time in 1991 and then again in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.

Not willing to be left behind, Congress is trying to rope in Babbar who once fought on a SP ticket in 1996 against Vajpayee.

Agra, Raj Babbar's present Lok Sabha constituency, has now been reserved for SC candidates. He may contest either from Fatehpur Sikri or Lucknow.

But the new found love between Congress and SP might create problems in the AICC's plans to make Babbar join the party. ''As of now, all possibilities are open,'' said a Congress leader from Lucknow.


UNI

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