Cong avoids naming Rahul as PM choice

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Party tradition doesn’t allow nominating PM before polls, he will lead campaign: Sonia

Cong avoids naming Rahul as PM choice
The Congress party on Thursday avoided projecting Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, while announcing that he will lead the party’s campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Party president Sonia Gandhi told the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting that there was no tradition in the party of declaring a PM candidate before polls.

While the opposition BJP taunted the party, saying it had avoided anointing Rahul Gandhi as it was aware of an impending defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, political observers saw it as a smart move by the Congress to consolidate non-BJP parties in the pre- and post-election scenario and isolate the opposition prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The BJP has been keen on converting the general election into a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi showdown. The party, which has no base in the south, barring Karnataka, faces the prospect of simultaneously battling the Congress and myriad regional players in key states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra and the northeastern states.

Although the GenNext in the Congress and some Rahul loyalists were keen on projecting the young Gandhi as the prime ministerial nominee, Mrs Gandhi put the record straight on this issue, saying that there was no need for it.

The CWC meeting at the Parliament Annex, which lasted nearly two hours, saw several young leaders demanding the Gandhi scion’s projection as the PM candidate. The demand was raised by Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who got instant support from a host of leaders including B K Hari Prasad, Gurudas Kamat, Ghulam Nabi Azad and youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav.

Soon after the CWC meeting began, Chennithala made a strong pitch to declare Rahul Gandhi the PM candidate, saying “time has now come to do it”. He reasoned that this would enthuse the youth and benefit the party in the changed demographic scenario.

The Congress party on Thursday avoided projecting Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, while announcing that he will lead the party’s campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Party president Sonia Gandhi told the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting that there was no tradition in the party of declaring a PM candidate before polls.

While the opposition BJP taunted the party, saying it had avoided anointing Rahul Gandhi as it was aware of an impending defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, political observers saw it as a smart move by the Congress to consolidate non-BJP parties in the pre- and post-election scenario and isolate the opposition prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The BJP has been keen on converting the general election into a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi showdown. The party, which has no base in the south, barring Karnataka, faces the prospect of simultaneously battling the Congress and myriad regional players in key states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra and the northeastern states.

Although the GenNext in the Congress and some Rahul loyalists were keen on projecting the young Gandhi as the prime ministerial nominee, Mrs Gandhi put the record straight on this issue, saying that there was no need for it.

The CWC meeting at the Parliament Annex, which lasted nearly two hours, saw several young leaders demanding the Gandhi scion’s projection as the PM candidate. The demand was raised by Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who got instant support from a host of leaders including B K Hari Prasad, Gurudas Kamat, Ghulam Nabi Azad and youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav.

Soon after the CWC meeting began, Chennithala made a strong pitch to declare Rahul Gandhi the PM candidate, saying “time has now come to do it”. He reasoned that this would enthuse the youth and benefit the party in the changed demographic scenario.

As other leaders joined the chorus to name Rahul as PM pick, Mrs Gandhi intervened, saying there was no need for the party to name a PM candidate before the polls, when there was no such precedence.

“This meeting of the AICC declares that 2014 election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” the CWC decided, adding the line in the omnibus draft resolution that will come before the AICC meeting for approval on Friday.

Rahul Gandhi has been entrusted with the responsibility of leading the campaign a year after he was made the party vice-president at the AICC meeting in Jaipur in January last.

Taking a dig at the BJP, which has declared Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial nominee, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in Congress the question of making anyone the PM candidate never arose starting from the era of Jawaharlal Nehru to the 2004 elections, which the party fought under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi.

“It is always clear who is the leader in the Congress. It is never an issue for us,” he said, adding that it was an issue for those parties, which had seen intense rivalry and dissension over prime ministerial candidate.

Dwivedi said after Sonia Gandhi, it was Rahul Gandhi in the party.

As many 16 members took part in the deliberations. Rahul Gandhi also addressed the meeting, saying he was ready to play any role to strengthen the party. Reacting to the CWC decision, Rahul Gandhi said he was a dedicated worker of the party and would carry out whatever responsibility is given to him by the organisation. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi and others backed the Congress chief’s stand of not projecting the PM candidate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not speak.

PTI adds: The BJP taunted the Congress, saying it had avoided anointing Rahul as it was aware of an impending defeat in the forthcoming polls. The party said naming him as the party’s prime ministerial nominee would have led to comparisons with Narendra Modi against whom the Congress vice-president “stands no chance.”

Party president Rajnath Singh said the Congress decision indicated that it accepted that Modi was going to be the prime minister.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the decision demonstrated that the Congress had recognised the reality. “I think it is a recognition of the reality since they know they are not going to form the government. Then why the need for announcing a PM candidate. I think, any party which takes a decision of this kind weighs the realities,” he said. He said Congress’ intent would also have been to “duck” a comparison with Modi for the country’s top post. )

Congress’ Dwivedi sought to dismiss the perception that the party was shying away from declaring its PM candidate due to apprehensions of a poor show in the next election at a time when the Modi-led BJP appears to have an advantage.

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