Singh will remain PM till 2014, says Cong

In a strong rebuff to the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party for projecting the incumbent prime minister as a candidate for the Presidential election, the Congress on Thursday broke its silence to assert that Manmohan Singh would continue to lead the government till 2014.

“We cannot afford to spare Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The other two names (A P J Abdul Kalam and Somnath Chatterjee) are not acceptable,” Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.

“During UPA-II (election of leader), we have already said he (Singh) will remain the Prime Minister till 2014. Congress does not take such a step (of changing its leader) in between,” he said.

The Congress’ forthright assertion came a day after Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav announced at a joint press conference that they would prefer anyone one of the three  – Manmohan Singh, former president A P J Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as the next incumbent of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Banerjee and Yadav dropped the bombshell after the TMC chief met Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence and revealed to media that Union Fin­ance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari were the first and second choices of Congress.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni attacked Banerjee and accused her of showing lack of courtesy towards the Prime Minister by dragging his name in the Presidential race.

“...Never ever there has been an instance where a sitting PM's name is being branded like this,” Soni told reporters.

“It is a constitutional post... He (Manmohan Singh) heads the government and the countr... and one desists from such lack of courtesy... People of our country would wonder why such tactics are being adopted by political parties”.

Dwivedi, however, sought tone down the criticism of the TMC chief, asserting that "Mamata is still our ally" in the wake of Banerjee deciding not to attend the UPA meeting scheduled For Friday morning.

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