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Jethmalani: I will contest from Lucknow
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
The Ram Jethmalani saga took a fresh twist today. A day after he said he would not contest against the Prime Minister from Lucknow, the former Law Minister and a Congress-backed Independent candidate, turned around and said he was not withdrawing from the race.

The eminent lawyer, who had filed his nomination papers for the coming Lok Sabha election, clarified that he was very much in the fray, stating that he had taken this decision despite family pressure.” It would be amoral and improper to withdraw at this juncture,” Mr Jethmalani told Zee News from London.

Mr Jethmalani, who had to rush abroad for his ailing son’s treatment, had issued a statement yesterday that he would not contest from Lucknow. Admitting that his changing stance had caused confusion, the former law minister said he was under pressure from his family to withdraw from the race.

At the same time, he said he was caught between his “moral commitment” and “friendship” with Mr Vajpayee, who had publicly appealed to him to withdraw his candidature in view of their 40-year-old association. “My conscience said I should ignore friendship and fulfil my moral commitment to the public,” he said, adding that he was returning to India tomorrow. The last date for withdrawals is April 19.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh on a dharna outside the residence of eminent lawyer and Lok Sabha candidate Ram Jethmalani
Social activist Swami Agnivesh on a dharna outside the residence of eminent lawyer and Lok Sabha candidate Ram Jethmalani in New Delhi on Saturday. — PTI photo

Mr Jethmalani said he had faxed his statement to Swami Agnivesh that he was not withdrawing. Swami Agnivesh, who opted out of the race after the former Law Minister decided to contest from Lucknow, said he would sit on fast-unto-death at Mr Jethmalani’s residence to ensure that the latter did not go back on his public commitment.

In addition, he has also faxed a letter to the Returning Officer, Lucknow, in which he said: “Nobody has any authority to withdraw my candidature from the Parliamentary election. I remain a contesting candidate.”

Not sure about Mr Jethmalani’s plans, the Congress had put a contingnecy plan in place and asked its sitting Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Das, to file his nomination from Lucknow. Mr Das, it was stated, was a covering candidate and would withdraw if Mr Jethmalani decided to contest.

The Congress party, which was acutely embarassed when Mr Jethmalani withdrew from the race, today stepped up its attack on the Prime Minister for asking a candidate not to contest against him. Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal said by issuing such an appeal in his capacity as Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee was clearly interfering with a candidate’s free exercise of electoral right.

Stating that this is a corrupt practice under the provisions of the Representatives of People’s Act, Mr Sibal said this is nothing but an attempt to influence a candidate. He said it is now up to the Prime Minister to explain why he had issued such a statement.


No pressure on Jethmalani, says BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
The BJP today accused the Congress of making baseless allegation that the BJP was pressurising Mr Ram Jethmalani to withdraw from the electoral battle in Lucknow against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“On what basis is the Congress alleging that pressure was being put on its candidate Ram Jethmalani by the BJP to withdraw from the election. First the Congress should confirm all details and facts before making such statements,” party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told newspersons here.

Mr Naqvi said the Congress should refrain from making such statements.

To a question whether there was any move by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to vacate his Lok Sabha seat for the Prime Minister, Mr Naqvi said, “Mr Advani is party’s candidate from Gandhinagar and Mr Vajpayee from Lucknow.” 

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