Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement ruling himself out of a possible third term as PM may have cleared the way for Rahul Gandhi to be formally named the Congress’ PM candidate, but the party is mulling different options to fix the timing of Gandhi’s elevation.
All eyes are now on the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting on January 17 preceded by a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on January 16.
Sources said that the top Congress leadership comprising party president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior leaders like AK Antony, P Chidambaram and Ahmed Patel are weighing the pros and cons of an early decision on Rahul, who, sources said, is not averse to taking on BJP’s Narendra Modi.
Chidambaram has batted for an early announcement while Singh only said that he hopes the party decides to nominate Rahul as PM candidate. Sonia has earlier said that the party would announce its PM candidate at an “appropriate time”.
A large section of the party feels that Rahul’s projection as PM candidate will boost the cadre and young Congress supporters.
“As far as the principle is concerned, the whole world knows that Rahul Gandhi’s name will come first whenever the question of Prime Ministership will crop up in the Congress. But political parties have certain formalities,” said party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi after the PM’s press conference on Friday.
However, a few leaders are also worried about Gandhi’s image. Some Congress leaders are anxious that a drubbing by the Modi-led BJP in the general elections may unnecessarily put a question mark on his leadership qualities.
Rahul Gandhi last spoke on this issue in March last year when he told Congress MPs: “The Prime Minister’s post is not my priority. I believe in long-term politics.” Subsequently, he clarified to those close to him that the statement was not a complete rejection of the PM’s post but a position for the time being so that he could work to strengthen the party organisation.
Dwivedi refused to speculate on the timing of Rahul’s elevation. “There is no further scope left for the party to say something officially as the Congress president has already said that the party candidate will be declared at an opportune time.”