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'Congress to decide when Rahul takes over Govt'

delhi Updated: Feb 18, 2009 09:19 IST

IANS
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The Congress leadership will decide when general secretary Rahul Gandhi should take "over the reins of the government", according to Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.

"It is up to the Congress leadership to decide when Rahul (Gandhi) takes over the reins of the government," Sibal, a senior party functionary, told IANS.

But Sibal, 60, made it clear that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be the candidate for the post if the Congress retains power after the coming Lok Sabha elections.

"Manmohan Singh is our prime minister and we are going to elections with him as our prime minister," he said.

With general elections only weeks away, there is intense speculation on whether the Congress would field Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate. But he himself has declared that he prefers Manmohan Singh for the job.

Sibal, MP from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, said that Rahul Gandhi stood for "a modern India".

"Gandhi's attempts to reach out to the poorest show the way he wants participation of every section of society and to empower them," added the MP, a lawyer by training.

Sibal suggested that the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) attempt to rake up the issue of building a Ram temple at the site of the razed Babri mosque would not pay electoral dividends.

"People countered them in the past and they lost elections when they took up the issue," he pointed out. "A BJP-led government became possible only after the party dropped the temple issue.

"I would advise them (BJP leaders) to make a temple in their hearts. Only then can they become a secular and tolerant party."

The minister said that seat- sharing talks were still on with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh despite hiccups in their relations. "Negotiations are going on. It is an evolutionary process."

Asked about former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh's association with the Samajwadi Party, he quipped: "It is an internal matter of the Samajwadi Party."

Kalyan Singh was the BJP chief minister when Hindu mobs razed the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992, triggering widespread communal violence in the country. His decision to align with the Samajwadi Party after quitting the BJP has caused unease in the Congress, which feels the development could erode the Samajwadi Party's Muslim support base.

Regarding the demand for 10 percent reservation for Muslims in central and state government jobs, Sibal said: "We believe in the welfare of weaker sections and minorities. We have a 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities."

But he added that a Congress government, if it was again voted to power, would "take important steps based on the recommendations of (the) Sachar Committee", which dealt with Muslim backwardness in India.

What did the Congress have to offer the millions of young in India?

The minister replied: "The Congress has offered all-inclusive growth to this country. Youths want to see a modern India with more opportunities of employment. The Congress (has done that)."