Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh on Wednesday presented himself as the inheritor of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee legacy in Lucknow. Contesting a seat Vajpayee represented five times, Rajnath promised to fulfill the former’s dreams and appeared before journalists with two Vajpayee loyalists — Shiv Kumar and, more significantly, Lalji Tandon, whom he has replaced as candidate and who has grudgingly accepted it.
Shiv Kumar accompanied Rajnath to the city on his first visit since the nomination. Shiv and Tandon were both silent during the press conference. With Tandon having once said he would vacate the seat for no one but Narendra Modi, Rajnath sought to put an end to the controversy by saying it was Tandon who had requested him a few months ago to contest from Lucknow, and adding it was the party central election committee’s decision to replace Tandon.
To a question on the bitterness of BJP veteran Jaswant Singh, who has filed his nomination as an independent after being denied the party ticket for Barmer, Rajnath said, “Jaswantji is a very senior leader. The last date of withdrawal of candidature is yet to arrive and I am hopeful he will review his decision.”
Asked about resentment among senior leaders over the distribution of tickets, Rajnath said, “From time to time since the days of the Jana Sangh to those of the current BJP, senior leaders have quit the party. But it is also a fact that the BJP is only political party that has never divided vertically.”
About the party’s decision to give tickets to new inductions, which has upset many old-timers such as Jaswant, Rajnath said it was part of the party’s strategy. Those who did not get tickets would be given suitable responsibilities after the elections, he added.
About protests in various constituencies, Rajnath said the number of ticket seekers rises alongside the rise in a party’s popularity. “The central election committee decided the candidates. If some have not got tickets, it does not mean they have been ignored.”
And about Lucknow, Rajnath said Vajpayee had a dream of developing it as a bio-tech city and he would try to fulfill that dream if he wins the seat and the BJP-led NDA comes to power. He promised to consult scientists about making the river Gomti pollution-free. “Atalji had prepared an outline for linking rivers with the Gomti in mind. The NDA government will implement the project and the Gomti will be linked to the Sharda to allow free flow,” he said.
Rajnath said the BJP has a vision for developing the country as a super-economic power and super-spiritual power. If the BJP comes to power, Modi will be prime minister and country will grow under his leadership, he said.