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Artful Dodger

 

Akhilesh Das surprises everyone with his resignation from the congress
TSI | Issue Dated: May 18, 2008
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Artful Dodger The departure of Akhilesh Das, newly removed union minister and two-time member of the Rajya Sabha, drew mixed responses at the party’s state headquarters in Lucknow. While a handful Congressmen, such as the party’s Lucknow president, put in their papers and a motley crowd raised slogans in his support, the larger reaction hovered around happiness and relief. Some, like the party’s legislative party leader Pramod Tiwari, known to be close to Das remained non-committal. The party’s state president, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, said Das had “betrayed the party which gave him everything” but added, “he is known to be an opportunist.” Party spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh wondered why Das had suddenly discovered a coterie after having been with the party for such a long time.The opportunist tag has hounded Das since 1993 when he bagged a ticket for Lucknow’s mayoral election solely on the strength of his father Babu Banarsi Das, former UP chief minister’s contribution to the party. Realising that he would not make it on the strength of the Congress, he struck a deal with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, even falling at his feet as soon as the results were announced.

His mayoral stint is remembered mostly for dubious land deals which, many claim, played a major role in enhancing his personal wealth. Proof of this was to come five years later when he set up a technical and management institute on a sprawling 200-acre campus in Lucknow. Since then he has variously lit “the candle of higher education” (as his home page on the institution website describes) by adding three engineering and one dental college to his name. In 1996, he wormed his way to a Rajya Sabha ticket, even though he always nursed the desire to contest the Lok Sabha, a task till now made impossible with Lucknow being the constituency of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But with Vajpayee quitting active politics, Das has grabbed his chance with a possible Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket, something party insiders claim he has been working on for quite some time now. His exit from the Congress was a foregone conclusion. As recently as March end, at the party’s state convention in Kanpur, Sonia Gandhi had pointedly referred to him in a remark that certain leaders were working solely for their own goodIn last May’s Vidhan Sabha elections, Das had campaigned for only two of his chosen candidates just as he had played favourites in the mayoral elections earlier. When Joshi was appointed president of the state unit, Das lost no opportunity to upstage her.

Insiders claim that the party high command was also irked by the display of wealth Das had put on during Holi, when he distributed some three lakh small steel boxes through many localities of Lucknow. Once again the pamphlets that came with the boxes had no picture of Joshi or mention of the party’s state unit. Party spokesperson Vereendra Madan says, “Had he stayed on, Das would have done more harm to the party”. A risk which clearly the party’s severely tottering state unit cannot afford.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017