Very much in race to lead government: Congress

Randeep Surjewala said "We believe that the Congress will be the single largest party. Naturally, the single largest party must lead the next government"

A day after Ghulam Nabi Azad indicated that he may not insist on a leadership role in the next government, the Congress on Friday made it clear that it was firmly in the race if the numbers were in their favour.

Azad, who set tongues wagging within the Congress by expressing readiness to offer the prime ministerial post to a regional party, came out with a clarification that the “biggest political party should be given a chance (to lead the government).”

In his media interactions in Patna and Shimla, Azad had indicated that the Congress will not make it an issue if it was not offered the Prime Minister's post.

“We believe that the Congress will be the single largest party. Naturally, the single largest party must lead the next government,” Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge of the AICC Communication Department said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi refused to hazard any guess on the number of seats the party would win in the Lok Sabha elections.

“I am not going to pre-judge what the people of India would decide. Wait for May 23... a couple of days more and you will get the answer,” was Rahul's refrain at a press conference just before the close of campaigning for the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

Surjewala said the Congress was ready to “walk the extra mile” to carry people and political parties with different shades of opinion along. He recalled the instances when Congress had formed the government in 2004 and 2009 after emerging as the single largest party.

An internal assessment by the Congress, the party could win 120 seats and emerge as the largest party in the opposition block. The Congress leaders believe that the non-NDA political parties could emerge as the largest grouping in the post election scenario and the real test would be taken along regional outlets and leaders who nurse prime ministerial ambitions.

However, for any regional party to stake claim to the top post would need to have “decent” numbers, a senior Congress leader said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BSP supremo Mayawati are seen as aspirants for the prime ministerial post with NCP chief Sharad Pawar being projected as a “dark horse”.

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