No Congress man would fumble for an answer if asked who would be the most suitable person for the job of the prime minister. Even in his sleep. To that extent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that Rahul Gandhi is the most suitable candidate for the top post after 2014 Lok Sabha polls is hardly surprising.
He has said it earlier too that if Gandhi wants, he would vacate his chair.
Still, Prime Minister Singh’s statement on Saturday, during his return journey from St Petersburg, calls for some explanation.
In March this year, the PM had refused to rule out a third term for himself after the 2014 elections. In Saturday’s statement, even as the election debate is heating up in the country, he has virtually ruled himself out of the race. There are reasons for it.
Prime Minister Singh is under a sustained onslaught by the Opposition.
The latest in this series of face-offs was in the Rajya Sabha recently, when the PM and the leader of opposition Arun Jaitley had such a heated exchange of words that it had to be expunged from the proceedings.
The PM apparently feels that his party is not supportive enough, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
The PM’s helplessness is also borne out by the rather apparent divergence between him and the party on several issues, pronounced most recently on the question of Pakistan.
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The PM was keen to ensure that the recent killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistani forces did not escalate tension. Defence minister AK Antony’s first statement in Parliament, which did not put the blame on Pakistan army, reflected this thinking in the government.
But the party made its displeasure clear – as reported by Hindustan Times in the article Cong admits 'error', Antony to make fresh statement on LoC killings in Parliament.
Earlier, the party had poured cold water on his plans to undertake a trip to Pakistan; and now it has put out enough signals that his planned meeting with the Pakistan prime minister in New York later in September will be at his own risk.
That is why he said he may not meet Nawaz Sharif at all.
Endorsing Rahul Gandhi is not a matter of choice for Congressmen. That said, this endorsement is also a protest; and a signal of his tiredness.