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Congress suffers Jethmalani pangs, fields nominee

Congress has decided to field Akhilesh Das, a RS member, against Vajpayee from Lucknow.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2004 12:19 AM IST

The Congress on Thursday decided to field Rajya Sabha member Akhilesh Das as a standby candidate against Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee from Lucknow in case noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani withdraws from the race.

The Congress also hit out at the PM for his appeal to Jethmalani. "It is a blot on democracy if the PM asks a person not to contest against him. It reflects his trepidation. It shows that he wants to hide something from the people. Maybe Jethmalani, who has worked as a minister with Vajpayee, knows many things about him which other people don't know," party spokesperson Kapil Sibal said.

But the onslaught on the PM notwithstanding, the Congress has been embarrassed by Jethmalani's reaction that he would decide on his next move after consulting the political parties, which backed his candidature.

So far, Congress is the only party to support Jethmalani's candidature. The SP and the BSP have maintained a distance. Even the CPI-M, which proposed a joint candidate against Vajpayee, hasn't committed its support to Jethmalani.

Shortly after the PM's statement, Sibal had contacted Jethmalani, who assured the Congress leader that he will remain in the fray. Presently in London where his son is ill, the noted lawyer said that he would be back in "three or four" days.

But the AICC didn't want to be embarrassed yet again in case Jethmalani pulled out. It decided to field Das, the son of former UP chief minister Banarsi Das Gupta. "If Jethmalani comes back, Das will withdraw," Sibal said.

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