Many want to contest but few decide not to contest

 BSP chief Mayawati. DH file photo

Many fights for getting a seat to contest an election, whether it is from panchayat or for Parliament, but a series of senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti have decided to throw the towel in.

If many have ambition as the leitmotif for high office to contest, a this few have reasons ranging from health concerns, many say this as the reason, to unhappiness with the party leadership in deciding not to contest. 

Besides Swaraj and Bharti, those in no-contest mood include Tamil superstar Rajani Kanth, MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Union Minister Kalraj Mishra, BJP's B C Khanduri and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, whom the Congress unit in Kerala desperately wanted to contest.

In 2014 too, as the poll approached, several leaders from the then ruling Congress had decided not to contest anticipating defeat in the elections, indicating that they read the tea leaves rightly.

If then senior ministers like P Chidambaram and Manish Tewari decided not to contest the polls then, this time it is the BJP leaders who are more interested in not contesting though opinions polls do not show dire straits for the ruling BJP.

However, leaders like Tewari are keen to contest this time while another Congress leader Digvijay Singh has indicated his preference for re-entering electoral politics after a self-imposed exile that ended in 2013.

The discussion over non-contesting leaders was reignited by BSP chief Mayawati on Wednesday when she tweeted that she would not be contesting the Lok Sabha elections but was quick to clarify that she was not abandoning the field and very much there as a Prime Ministerial aspirant. Mayawati cited her not contesting the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls earlier and getting elected only after becoming Chief Minister, which she says she could do again in Parliament.

At 85, former Prime Minister Deve Gowda is one leader who keeps the voters in suspense as once in a while he is loudly "thinking about my usefulness in Parliament" even as party leaders are firm that he will contest this time too. Some say he will contest from Tumkur in Karnataka.

The first to enter the no-contest bandwagon was External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she said she would not be contesting again from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh. She indicated that health concerns as the reason for her decision to leave the electoral arena while insisting that she has not retired from politics.

Same was the case with another Union Minister Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti, a former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister who was elected from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. She too says she is fully into politics but not keen on elections as she has to look after her health. She said she will be available for campaigning.

While both Swaraj and Bharti are considered to be miffed with the duopoly of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, another leader to tell BJP that he is not contesting is B C Khanduri, who was removed as Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence last year. Khanduri's son Manish has joined the rival Congress and is likely to contest from Pauri in Uttarakhand, the stronghold of the senior Khanduri.

Mishra, one of the prominent Brahmin faces in Uttar Pradesh, has also told the party that he would not be contesting as he is preoccupied with campaign machinery in Haryana though some sections say party leadership has indicated him not to press for a seat. It is also to be seen whether L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who have been relegated to the oblivion by the party leadership, would contest the polls.

One of the biggest anticipations was the entry of Tamil superstar Rajani Kanth but he announced a month ago that neither he nor his party ‘Rajani Makkal Mandram’ would enter the poll fray and asked his supporters to vote as per their conscience. Another party to follow is Raj Thackeray’s MNS which announced it would not be contesting the election but would campaign against Modi.

Another politician who announced that he would not contest is BJD's Tathagata Satpathy. He has altogether quit politics and would be concentrating on editing his two papers in Odia and English. He puts the pressure for quitting politics to his son, who wanted him more at home.

Kerala also is witnessing the absence of three prominent Congress leaders – former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal -- who announced that they would not be contesting the Lok Sabha elections for various reasons.

While Chandy was not at all keen to leave Kerala though he is in-charge of Andhra Pradesh’s Congress, Ramachandran had said that he could not contest because of his responsibilities as KPCC president. 

Venugopal, who was an MP from Allapuzha, would not have minded contesting if he was given Wayanad seat instead of his sitting seat though he had announced he would not contest owing to party responsibilities.

Another person not to contest would be senior Congress KV Thomas who has been denied seat, the lone sitting MP in Kerala to face the axe in candidate's list. 

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