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Akhilesh Das always looked for greener pastures

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
May 06, 2008 18:49 IST
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Lately sacked Union Minister of State for Steel Akhilesh Das, who walked out of the Congress party on Tuesday, was known for always looking for greener pastures.

A confirmed opportunist, Das is understood to have struck a deal with Bahujan Samaj Party from which he hopes to grab a ticket to contest the next Lucknow Lok Sabha election.

His exit from the Congress is seen as s setback for the party that was already very weak in Uttar Pradesh where it had once ruled for four long decades.

And if he were to succeed in his mission, it would not be without giving UP Urban Development Minister Nakul Dubey a run for his money.

Dubey was a known prospective contender for the Lucknow parliamentary seat ticket.

Das had set his eyes on the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat ever since it became apparent that the ageing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would not remain in the fray for the next general election.

Vajpayee had virtually monopolised the seat for four successive terms. In fact, Das was quite inclined to take a plunge after Vajpayee's initial unwillingness to contest the last general election from Lucknow.

However, once Vajpayee was persuaded to remain in the scene, Das discreetly pushed his own nominee Manzoor Ahmed, a retired IPS officer.

However, no sooner did Ahmed begin to show potential, a threatened Das discreetly withdrew his support, leading to major differences between the two.

He could not afford to miss the opportunity this time, therefore he is believed to have moved heaven and earth to gain entry into the BSP, whose support he feels could sail him through in his mission to grab what was widely known as Vajpayee's political bastion.

His clandestine connections with BSP through an IAS officer in Mayawati's inner coterie got exposed and led to his fall from grace in the Congress.

However, it was not before ensuring an "honourable entry" into the BSP in days to come that he chose to march out of the Congress.

His exit from the Congress was a foregone conclusion the day he was dropped from the Manmohan Singh ministry last month.

In fact, Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to show him the door only after she was convinced that Das was establishing contact with BSP supremo and UP Chief Minister Mayawati.

"It will not make any difference to our party; in any case what has he done for the party in all these years; on the contrary, he has caused more harm to the party from within," quipped a top UP Congress leader, who does not wish to be named.

"This has not come as any surprise to us. He has never been true to the party and was always looking for his personal aggrandisement rather than the good of the party," remarked  UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Interestingly, Mayawati was understood to have given her nod for his entry, despite the fact that Das had always enjoyed close proximity to her sworn adversary Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Das owes his initiation into politics to Mulayam whose support got him the mayorship of Lucknow in the early nineties .

From a good badminton player, he took a plunge into the arena of politics by skillfully using the name of his late father former UP chief minister Banarasi Das, who had strong roots in the Congress party.

He wangled a Congress ticket for the Lucknow nayoral election, but realising that the Congress' strength alone would not steer him through, he struck a deal with Mulayam.

And no sooner was he declared elected, he drove down to Mulayam's residence in a dancing procession and touched the SP leader's feet to seek his blessings.

The period thereafter remained full of controversies as he went about violating the Lucknow master plan with impunity.

For a song he sold away a large chunk of strategically located municipal land to a prominent developer-builder who made a fortune out of it. He not only went to the extent of selling footpaths in prized commercial areas for building shops, but also sold away a historical park in Lucknow's well known Aminabad for building a shopping complex, that was eventually pulled down following the Supreme Court's intervention through a PIL.

In the bargain, he enhanced his own financial status, acquiring property after property, building educational institutions to acquire the stature of an educationist.

From virtually nothing, today he owns three engineering colleges, a dental college as well as a college of management.

He also runs a smalltime Hindi daily from Lucknow after holding the franchisee of a well-known national Hindi daily that was eventually withdrawn from him.

He also managed to maintain his clout in the Congress party by not only doing errands for prominent UP Congress leader Pramod Tiwari and All India Congress Committee treasurer Moti Lal Vora, but also making liberal use of his money power to silence his detractors within the party ranks.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow