Congress Leaders Shy Away From Lok Sabha Contest
NEW DELHI: In what might mark nervousness in Congress ranks over the party’s poll prospects, shipping minister GK Vasan on Tuesday ruled himself out of the Lok Sabha contest.
Vasan’s declaration comes in the wake of reports that I&B minister Manish Tewari does not want to take the field in Punjab though sources said his reluctance stems from personal reasons. Tewari’s name has not figured among sitting Punjab MPs declared in the first list of 194 candidates on Saturday, triggering speculation whether he will be the Congress candidate from his constituency of Ludhiana.
It was suggested that Tewari was keen on a shift to Chandigarh, but former railway minister Pawan Bansal remains in the running for the seat despite the controversy surrounding an alleged case of bribery for a high-level railway appointment.
The scene in Ludhiana has become complicated with the entry of prominent activist HS Phoolka on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket and the threat of SAD-BJP throwing a lot of resources into the challenge.
The reluctance on the part of key Congress leaders to face the battle reinforces the impression that 2014 is a tough test for the ruling camp facing serious anti-incumbency. Opinion polls too are pointing to a sharply dipping graph.
Vasan is a known Congress face from Tamil Nadu — son of the late stalwart GK Moopanar — but his chickening out is seen in conjunction with the party’s failure to attract any allies like DMK in the elections. Congress is staring down the barrel without the support of either of the Dravidian parties as also no truck with minor caste outfits like DMDK that inhabit the Tamil political space.
On his part, Vasan cited his responsibilities as a campaigner to justify his decision to opt out of fighting elections. “I am one of the main campaigners who wants to ensure the victory of Congress candidates by touring all 39 seats in the state,” he said.
The claim apart, Congress is reeling under poor PR after important desertions in states. Leader of opposition in Odisha assembly Bhupinder Singh joined principal rival Biju Janata Dal as did Bhagirath Prasad who joined BJP after he was announced the candidate from Bhind seat in Madhya Pradesh.
The sensational defections are undercutting the Congress attempt to project the 2014 elections as normal in the wake of an entrenched perception that the party is facing an uphill task after successive wins in 2004 and 2009.