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Cong gets cold feet on projecting Rahul for PM

NEW DELHI, April 2, 2013 DHNS 2:54 IST

Prime ministership decision after polls

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi
The Congress on Tuesday got cold feet over projecting its vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate and indicated that Manmohan Singh could have a third term if the party “can retain power” after the 2014 general election.

“The relationship between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi is unique and we have never seen such camaraderie in the past. This is perhaps the ideal model for future,” said Janardan Dwivedi, general secretary of the All India Congress Committee and chief spokesperson of the party.

Though the Congress cashed in on the hitherto unblemished reputation of soft-spoken Singh during the United Progressive Alliance’s first tenure in power as well as in the 2009 elections, a series of scams coming up to haunt his government had tarnished his image.

The party, however, chose to back him once again on Tuesday, a day before he is set to address captains of India Inc at the annual general meeting of Confederation of Indian Industries. The industry body also invited Rahul to address the corporate biggies on Thursday.

Dwivedi’s comment came five days after Singh, who turned 80 last year, declined to rule out the possibility of a third term for himself. It was also apparently intended to contradict another AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh’s recent comment that the UPA’s model of dual power centres (Congress president and prime minister) did not work well over the past nine years.

Digvijay had also remarked that Rahul should himself lead the government if the Congress scored a hat trick.

Talking to reporters at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday, Dwivedi, however, reiterated that Rahul’s priority “is to strengthen the party. We have Manmohan Singh as our prime minister today and everybody accepts him,” he said.

“Who will be the prime minister after the 2014 elections is not an issue. The party will take a call on the leadership issue after the elections,” he added.

The Congress appeared to be cautious to make sure that the 2014 poll “is not seen as a direct political battle” between the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has brought Modi to centre stage by inducting him into its highest policy-making body last Sunday.

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