Jyoti Basu for Sonia as PM
Veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu has backed Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the prime minister's post in the event of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition being dislodged in the general election.
Amid a debate over Italian-born Gandhi being a prime ministerial candidate if exit poll predictions of a hung verdict come true, Basu came out in strong defence of her rights "as an Indian citizen" to make a bid for the top job. "Objections even within the Congress need not stop her if she wants to become the prime minister as the leader of the largest party because under the constitution, she is an Indian citizen," Basu told a private TV channel.
"She has all the rights that Indian citizens have," Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader, who was chief minister of West Bengal for 24 years, maintained.
Basu had been spoken of as a consensus prime ministerial candidate after the 1996 general election but the CPI-M had turned down the suggestion. Basu said his party would support Gandhi as prime minister despite her foreign origin if it meant keeping the BJP led NDA out of power.
"I don't think (the foreign origin issue) is having much effect," said the 89-year old Basu.
"I don't know in the northern part of India but in Kolkata it does not have any effect. But there are some people even in the Congress who talked about this foreign origin," he said.
Basu agreed with the exit poll predictions of a hung house after three rounds of voting, and with two remaining.
"It looks to me that it will be a hung parliament and the parties will now have to sit together and think of a coalition. There is a lot to discuss. It cannot be any party's programme but a minimum common programme as we have in West Bengal," he said.
Responsible for cobbling two centre-left coalitions in the past, the CPI-M is gearing to play a key role in shaping a non-BJP government in the event of a hung Parliament.