PM ‘neither in nor out’ of race for third term

UPA: Says 'two power centres' talk useless,backs Rahul for PM

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:April 6, 2013 4:30 am

Refusing to clear the air on whether he will finally hang his boots at the end of his second term,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said he was neither “ruling himself in or out” on whether he will be in the reckoning for a third term.

Singh,who will be 81 by the time the next Lok Sabha elections are due,however reiterated that he was for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi becoming Prime Minister “any day”. He has in the past said Rahul is fit for the top executive post.

The Prime Minister’s comments,which only seemed to add to the confusion on who may head the UPA if it wins power a third time,comes a day after Rahul told a CII meeting that the issue of prime ministership was “irrelevant” and a “lot of smoke” for him.

The issue has been making headlines as there is a clamour building in the Congress to project the 42-year-old Gandhi scion as the party’s next prime ministerial candidate in general elections due in 2014.

Singh,who spoke to reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after the Padma awards were presented Friday,stressed that the issue of accepting a third term in office was “hypothetical” as his government “is yet to complete its term”.

However,when pressed if he was ruling himself out of the race,Singh said: “I am not ruling it in,I am not ruling it out”. Singh had faced similar questions when he was returning from South Africa last week and even then he had refused to give a clear answer. “We will cross that bridge when we reach there,” he had said.

The Prime Minister,who strikes a delicate power balance with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi,however,refused to endorse the two power centres formulation some Congress leaders have sought to advance.

“This is the creation of the media. It is a useless debate” he said when asked about his views in the backdrop of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s comments that a system with two power centres does not work well and should not be repeated.

The Congress party had officially rejected Digvijaya Singh’s proposition and had maintained that having two power centres had served the party well and could be an “ideal model” for the future also.

This had led to speculation that a third term for Prime Minister Singh could well be in the realm of possibility as he could emerge as the obvious choice if Rahul refused to accept prime ministership in the event of a UPA victory.

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