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Tandon?s fate uncertain, party asks him to lie low

Even as Lalji Tandon tried to put up a brave front on the Lucknow stampede issue, central BJP leaders expected PM to name another person as his election agent.
PTI | By Shekhar Iyer and Vijay Sharma, New Delhi / Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2004 12:24 AM IST

Even as senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon tried to put up a brave front on the Lucknow stampede issue, central BJP leaders expected Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to name another person as his election agent.

Though the PM and the BJP tried to avoid blaming Tandon publicly for the tragedy that followed the distribution of saris to mark his birthday, BJP sources insisted that Vajpayee was deeply upset by the event.

 Damage control
Uttar Pradesh BJP publicly stands behind Tandon
But Pramod Mahajan conveys to Tandon the leadership's displeasure over the stampede
BJP says Tandon will be one of the proposers when Vajpayee files poll papers on Thursday
EC receives the UP government's report on stampede

They said Vajpayee had conveyed his deep displeasure to Tandon when he visited Lucknow just after the tragedy. He was particularly piqued that the stampede had followed Tandon's departure and things were left to go out of control.

As Vajpayee reached Lucknow on Wednesday night to file his nomination papers, Tandon was conspicuous by his absence among those who received him at the airport.

On his arrival, the PM said, “No decision has been taken on Tandon’s removal.”

Meanwhile, the state BJP has stood solidly behind Tandon and said there was no reason to dilute his present position in the party.

Tandon not only continues to enjoy the same status and stature in the party but he will also be one of the proposers when Vajpayee files his nomination papers at the Collectorate on Thursday.

On the issue of S.S. Ahluwalia, who is being deputed by the BJP high command as media campaign in charge for Lucknow, the party said that even in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, senior party leaders like Madan Lal Khurana and Trilochan Singh had camped in the PM's constituency during electioneering. This, they said, could not be seen as any erosion in Tandon's authority and power.

Tandon himself denied that he held any official post as a representative of the PM in his constituency from which he could be formally removed.

Tandon said that Vajpayee had appointed him his 'chief election agent' in the 1991, 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections because of their over 50-year association.

He wasn't the PM's election agent in the last polls because he was a Cabinet minister. Vajpayee had appointed Shiv Kumar instead.

Tandon said that he had been one of the proposers of Vajpayee's name in all the four elections he contested from Lucknow and would play the same role on Thursday.

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