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Cong should name PM candidate: P Chidambaram

PTI  New Delhi, December 30, 2013
First Published: 21:32 IST(30/12/2013) | Last Updated: 23:33 IST(30/12/2013)

The Congress should project its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections, finance minister P Chidambaram said on Monday.

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"... in my view, the party (Congress) should project a person as the leader of the party who will become prime minister if the party forms the government. That is my view, but it is for the party to decide," he said in an interview to a television channel.

He said that in today’s parliamentary as well as state elections, voters tend to ask who is the leader.

"That is something that I have observed over the last 15-20 years," Chidambaram said, adding that in many state elections there had been direct contest between chief minister candidates of party A and party B.

"We have seen this for nearly 30 years or more in Tamil Nadu," the minister, who hails from the south Indian state, added.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) named Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its PM candidate in September, there has been criticism that the Congress has been reticent about naming its nominee.

On December 8, the day the assembly poll results of four states came out, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the party would announce its PM candidate at an opportune time.

There are speculations that the Congress will declare its vice-president Rahul Gandhi the PM nominee at the All India Congress Committee meeting on January 17.

Responding to a question on the Modi’s blog on Gujarat riots, Chidambaram said he had hoped that the Gujarat CM would tender an apology for the 2002 riots.

"I thought he was going to utter one word, which thousands of people are expecting he will — the word apology. He uttered some words even I don’t know. But he did not use the word apology. I think it is good to feel your own pain but I think he should have felt the pain of 2,000 families who lost their loved ones," he said.

In his recent blog, Modi spoke of "pain" and "anguish" over the 2002 Gujarat riots but did not proffer any apology over the killings.

Chidambaram said Modi should have "felt the pain" of Zakia Jafri who lost her husband in the riots.

"He should have felt the pain of all those who were burnt alive in that (Gulbarg Housing) Society. And I don't think he has reached out and touched the heart of those who suffered post-Godhra 2002," he said.

Asked about the clean chit given to Modi by an Ahmedabad court, the finance minister said the issue was not limited to committing a crime but ministerial responsibility.

"I am not talking about crime. I am talking about moral responsibility for what happened post-Godhra. Please remember, more than once, the Congress party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have apologised for what happened in 1984. I think the difference between an apology and other words he used is known to anyone who follows what he tries to say."

Rejecting suggestions that Modi was now 'unbeatable', he said, "Nobody is unbeatable. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. In 2004, many of you said Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was unbeatable and in 2009 many commentators said Mr Manmohan Singh government would be defeated. So what happens in an election, nobody can say."

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