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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

In peak election season, PM slips into the shadows

Saubhadra Chatterji , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 23, 2014
First Published: 00:18 IST(23/3/2014) | Last Updated: 08:35 IST(23/3/2014)

From being the prime minister of two Congress-led governments at the Centre, Manmohan Singh has moved into the deep background in the run-up to the crucial 2014 general elections.

A source said Singh, who had announced in January that he would step down after the summer elections, has so far been invited to campaign in just six states — Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Assam and Karnataka.

Read: Coalgate: CBI questions key PM aide TKA Nair

Even though he is reportedly keen to visit Gujarat, a formal invitation from the state Congress unit has not reached his office yet.

Singh is also believed to be upset with Congress spokesperson PC Chacko's statement on March 15. Chacko had said though Singh was a great economist, he had failed to address the media properly on various issues.

Read: PM works 11-hour days as he winds up term

"I have spoken 34 times on the 2G controversy," Singh has told an aide in reference to an issue that has haunted his government and figured in BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi's speeches.

Since a press conference on January 3, Singh has carefully avoided speaking publicly on politics, except in the January AICC meeting. He had even skipped the customary on-board press conference while returning from his last foreign trip to Myanmar earlier this month.

Read: Chacko stirs row, says Cong poll prospects are not bright

In the Congress manifesto likely to be released next Wednesday, Singh, once seen as the Congress' middle-class hero, has apparently not given any specific suggestion, leaving party strategists to use parts of his previous speeches in it.

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the Congress' campaign so far has revolved around party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Read: What was Manmohan 'thinking' while he was PM? We’ll never know

However, the party's top leadership reportedly wants the next series of poll materials to have Singh's presence.

A source close to the PM said Singh's silence was a deliberate approach to allow Gandhi take the centre stage.

"The PM has turned down several requests for interview as part of this strategy," said the source.

However, Singh is slowly getting busier behind the scenes. He is apparently meeting MPs, party workers and even ticket-seekers.

The PM regularly attends the party's Central Election Committee meetings to select candidates.

"Many have come to him to lobby for tickets or to change their constituency," said a Congress source.

Singh's office is also providing talking points on the United Progressive Alliance government's achievements.

In 2009, Singh had addressed less than five election rallies as he was recovering from a heart surgery.

Read: A different man in smaller groups, PM not a natural leader: Opposition

Read: PM-headed panels hardly ever met, says RTI query

Read: Manmohan in Parliament: calm but not assertive enough


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