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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 13, 2013
Dismissing reports of a rift between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party following the axing of cabinet ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar, the Congress leadership Monday aggressively refuted speculation on the Prime Minister's future.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi dismissed the rumours as 'malicious campaign' and said the party 'condemned' the conjectures.

"Whenever there was a need, the party has said in clear terms that Manmohan Singh will be PM till 2014. That is the position today also," Dwivedi said.

To demonstrate that working relation between PM and party chief Sonia Gandhi are "perfect" and "unparalleled", Dwivedi recounted how Sonia had covered her own picture on the party manifesto and showed Singh's photo before announcing him as the Congress' PM candidate in the run up to the 2009 polls.

"There cannot be a better relationship between any party chief and PM than the one which exists between the two," he added.

Dwivedi had earlier come out in strong support of the PM after Digvijaya Singh had condemned the two power-centre model (PM and party chief) as a failure.

Party sources said Sonia was extremely upset over the latest rumours related to party-PM relations and told party strategist that leaders spreading such theories have not spoken to her.

Sources close to the PM said he remained focused on work the past two days and preferred not to react to media reports.

Meanwhile, sources also said that Rahul Gandhi deliberately kept himself out of the cabinet even as the PM repeatedly asked him to join.

"He [Rahul] knew that his entry in the cabinet may affect his [PM's] authority. He wanted to avoid complications," said a source.