Notwithstanding his perceived reluctance for the prime minister’s post, there is a growing clamour within the Congress to name party vice president Rahul Gandhi the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
The Congress has been careful not to turn the 2014 election campaign into a battle of personalities between BJP prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi and Gandhi.
However, many in the party feel that Gandhi’s projection as PM candidate will enthuse the cadre, attract young voters and serve to contain Modi’s rising popularity.
Though the Congress vice president has been deeply involved in the party’s poll preparations, he has not shown any interest in the PM’s post or even in joining the Cabinet.
But a recent remark by the 43-year-old Gandhi at a rally in Rampur — that “a government of the youth will be formed in 2014” — has fuelled the clamour within the party for Rahul to be their PM candidate.
The Congress officially maintains that it is not party “practice” to announce its PM hopeful but does not rule out an exception this time.
“We all expect that Rahul Gandhi will take up leadership of the party and the country,” party spokesman PC Chacko told HT on Thursday.
Accusing the Congress of nepotism, the Opposition has relentlessly been taking potshots at Rahul. BJP general secretary Amit Shah recently said: “Congress thinks the PM’s chair is Pappu’s (a reference to Rahul) birthright. But this is a democracy, you need people’s blessings, and people’s blessings are with Narendra Modi.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already declared Gandhi as the ideal choice for PM. “I have always maintained that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the PM post after 2014 elections. I will be very happy to work under him,” he said last month.
Even finance minister P Chidambaram said in a recent interview: “The time has come for the torch to be passed on to a new and younger generation.”