Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s declaration that a prime ministerial candidate would be announced at an “opportune” time, has triggered a new round of speculation on who that may be and what the “appropriate” time would be.
Congress had not declared its PM candidate in 2004, leading to a BJP taunt that it was a clandestine plan for Sonia Gandhi to takeover. “Vajpayee versus who,” was among the BJP slogans in the election in which the Congress won and made Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister.
Singh is about to finish his second consecutive term, with a heavy baggage of anti-incumbency. Many in the Congress clamour that announcing Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate will help the party face the next election with a promise rather than on previous performance.
That Manmohan Singh has not bowed out of the race yet makes it difficult for Sonia Gandhi to decide on the “opportune” time. Some leaders say opportune time is when Rahul Gandhi is ready. Rahul Gandhi has said on earlier occasions that becoming the PM is not important for him, but he has not ruled out that possibility.
The idea of facing the election with a PM candidate is to galvanise the cadre – which is impossible if it is not Rahul Gandhi. “Anyone else will only mean further disintegration in the party,” pointed out a leader, referring to other names appearing in political columns such as P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde, Meira Kumar and AK Antony.
IT icon Nandan Nilekani’s name has been floating in social media for weeks now as a potential PM candidate, but everyone including Nilekani rubbished it. “Nobody other than Rahul Gandhi can fit the bill,” he said.