Cong clarifies on Rahul as PM,only adds to confusion

A day after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reignited the debate on AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s projection as...

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: January 10, 2009 1:07 am

A day after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reignited the debate on AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s projection as the prime ministerial candidate,saying he may follow in the footsteps of his father who had become PM at 40,the Congress sounded ambivalent on the issue on Friday.

Party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed endorsed Mukherjee’s remarks in Chennai on Thursday,even as he maintained that the Congress stood by what party president Sonia Gandhi had said at the party headquarters on August 15. Asked by reporters on the sidelines of the Independence Day function at the party office whether Dr Manmohan Singh would unfurl the flag at the Red Fort next year also,she had said,“Why not,certainly?”

On Friday,the party spokesperson said,“It is true that Rahul Gandhi has all the qualities,which are necessary for anybody to lead the country. But Pranab Mukherjee has not said whether it would be after the next Lok Sabha election or next to that. It is for Rahulji to decide when,where and how (he chooses to take over the mantle).” Ahmed added that Singh had done a “very good job” in the past five years.

Replying to a question at a function in Chennai on Thursday,Mukherjee had said,“We do hope… we had a Prime Minister at the age of 40,Rajiv Gandhi. Days are not far off,for Rahul Gandhi may follow the footsteps of his father.”

The ruling party’s official stance echoed what Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh had said last April. Asked if a young leader should be projected for the top job,Singh had said,“Why not”. Asked specifically about Rahul,he had said,“He has all the qualities of his father. He is making sincere efforts in acquiring the information and knowledge that is required.”

The Congress had then officially distanced itself from Singh’s remark with party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan saying there was no vacancy for the post of the PM. “The AICC would like to put an end to all speculation. It is not appropriate to spread political speculation in this way. Congress president Soniaji and general secretary Rahulji have always kept away from any environment of sycophancy,” she had said.

Shakeel Ahmed on Friday clarified that the party had not called Arjun Singh a sycophant. “He is a very respectable leader. The Congress had not called him a sycophant.”

“It should not be projected that people are unhappy with Dr Manmohan Singh,” said Ahmed adding how Rahul has attracted the youth.

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