Rahul not to be candidate for PM job: Sonia

January 17, 2014 - 7:16:20 am
New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will not be declared prime ministerial candidate but will lead the party’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party said yesterday, putting to rest intense speculation about his role.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) which lasted for almost two hours. The meeting saw several leaders pushing for declaring Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate but party president Sonia Gandhi intervened to say that the COngress did not have a tradition of making such as a declaration before the elections.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley taunted the Congress for not declaring Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate. He said the Congress knew “it will not form the government” and felt there was no need to declare its candidate.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that the CWC meeting decided the agenda for the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting to be held today, in which a resolution will speak about the role of Rahul Gandhi ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. “This meeting of CWC declares that the 2014 election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” Dwivedi said reading out from the resolution.

Dwivedi said Sonia Gandhi told the meeting that it was not necessary for the Congress to declare a prime ministerial candidate even if some other party had done so. The BJP has declared Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate.

Sources said that the demand for declaring Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate was first made by Kerala party leader Ramesh Chennithala. Similar views were expressed by party general secretaries B K Hari Prasad and Gurudas Kamat, union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Indian Youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav.

They said several CWC members at the meeting asked the party-led United Progressive Alliance government to take immediate steps to check price rise. They demanded an increase in subsidised cooking gas cylinders from nine to 12 for each household.

They said the concerns were targeted at Petroleum Minister M Veerapa Moily, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who were all present at the meeting.

Party sources said the leadership had sought to do a balancing act by not formally projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate but also making it amply clear that he would occupy the position if the party forms the government after the Lok Sabha polls to be held in April-May.

They said party leaders did not want the 2014 election to turn into a presidential-style contest between Rahul Gandhi and Modi as it could suit the BJP. The sources added that the BJP wanted the Lok Sabha campaign to turn into a virtual battle between Modi and Raul Gandhi.

The CWC decision, however, turned out to an anti-climax to the reportage in the media and anticipation in sections of the party about the possible announcement concerning Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi already heads the party’s election coordination committee for Lok Sabha polls.

There have been divergent views among the party’s senior leaders on projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate though there has been growing demand among workers for such a declaration.