The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not yet ruled out former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee contesting the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat.

Senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon told mediapersons on Sunday: “If he wants he may contest even at the last minute. We will welcome him if he contests from Lucknow.” Vajpayee’s health is improving, he added. For the last several months, there have been reports that Vajpayee, who represents Lucknow, may not contest the general elections because of his age and poor health.

Tandon said the party has so far not decided on an alternative candidate should Vajpayee decide not to contest. Vajapyee is a “father figure” and “whosoever the father names, will be accepted”, said Tandon – considered a potential candidate in case Vajpayee doesn’t contest.

The problem for the BJP is that, leaving aside Vajpayee, it does not have any candidate who can win Lucknow hands down. In fact, if Vajpayee doesn’t contest, retaining Lucknow is going to be a tall order for the party.

Tandon said the manner in which other political parties were choosing their candidates showed their bankruptcy. “Lucknow is one constituency that has given a Prime Minister to the country. Even Bahuguna was a MP from this seat,” he said. He accused the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) of deliberately fielding candidates with controversial backgrounds. “Their main aim is to divert the attention of the people from main issues like development. The criminals who were patronised by the SP are now with the BSP,” Tandon said.

The SP has already announced it will field actor Sanjay Dutt from Lucknow. In case Dutt’s conviction by the TADA court came in the way, the party plans to field his wife Manyata. The BSP, however, has not announced its candidate yet. When former Union minister Akhilesh Das joined the party last year, BSP chief Mayawati had said that he will be the party candidate for Lucknow. But Das has since been sent to the Rajya Sabha.

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