Congress in no hurry to name PM candidate

The Congress is likely to underplay the Rahul Gandhi card ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gone ahead by announcing Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

There have been demands from within the Congress on anointing Rahul as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. But the party does not appear to be in a hurry.

An immediate declaration may mean that the Congress is allowing the BJP to set the agenda ahead of the elections. Moreover, Rahul’s elevation may also put a question mark on the present government.

In the past, the Congress had rarely faced the dilemma of naming a prime ministerial candidate, be it at the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, who together ruled the country for 38 years.

P V Narasimha Rao, who was planning to retire from politics, became the prime minister in 1991 by virtue of being the Congress president, a post he got after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Manmohan Singh was named the prime minister by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2004. Again, Sonia officially declared Singh the United Progressive Alliance’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 elections on August 15, 2008.

Privately, Congress leaders say that Rahul is the undisputed choice after his mother had already made her disinclination to the post as early as 2004. However, the party would also like to keep its options open and wait for the outcome of the 2014 elections before it makes an announcement.

Earlier this month, while returning from an official visit to Russia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that he would not like to continue after the 2014 elections. “I have always maintained that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the post of the prime minister after the 2014 elections. I will be very happy to work in the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi,” Singh had said.

The BJP has been announcing prime ministerial candidates for quite some time now. In fact, Atal Bihari Vajpayee at one point of time was irritated by the BJP’s slogan, “abki baari atal bihari,” when the party did not come to power after his nomination for the top post.

Vajpayee went on to become the prime minister, first for a brief stint in 1996 and later for two terms spread over six years. The BJP fought the 2004 elections under Vajpayee’s leadership with Advani as his deputy. Advani was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2009 general election.

For the 2014 elections, Modi has the advantage of winning three assembly elections and having administrative experience since 2001.

Rahul Gandhi has not held any position in the government since entering the LS in 2004.

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