Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will lead the party’s campaign for Lok Sabha elections, but won’t be named the prime ministerial nominee, a working committee meet decided on Thursday evening.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi told the Congress Working Committee (CWC) there was no tradition of the party anointing a PM candidate before elections, party leader Janardan Dwivedi said.
“The Lok Sabha election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” Dwivedi said after the meeting. The move to make Rahul Gandhi the poll campaign chief made it amply clear that in case the party won the 2014 electoral battle, he would be its first choice as the next PM.
“Just because one other party (BJP) has declared its PM candidate doesn’t mean that we will also project a nominee for the top post,” Dwivedi said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had in September last given Narendra Modi a crack at the most important job in the country by naming him its PM candidate, despite bitter opposition by party patriarch LK Advani. The anointment was seen as the biggest step yet in the career of the Gujarat chief minister who still finds it difficult to shake off allegations that he did not act decisively to prevent the 2002 riots that killed more than a 1,000 people in Gujarat.
“Several leaders raised the issue of naming the PM candidate at the meet but the party chief said the Congress traditionally did not name a candidate before elections,” Dwivedi told reporters in Delhi. “I am a dedicated worker of the party. I will perform whatever duty the Congress asks me to," he quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying during the meeting.
The discussions held by the CWC on Thursday will be approved at the All India Congress Committee’s meet on Friday, the Congress leader said.
The Congress was recently routed in assembly elections held in four states despite its vice-president’s aggressive campaign.
Rahul Gandhi had recently made an unexpected appearance at a meet-the-press programme in Delhi and slammed an ordinance on convicted lawmakers after the party leadership praised the ordinance as “perfect”.
The party had later withdrawn the ordinance that sought to protect convicted legislators from immediate disqualification. The move by Rahul Gandhi was then seen as a mark of public leadership and an attempt to reach out to the people of the country as the face of the Congress.