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Manmohan is Sonia’s man for PM
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, February 6
The suspense is finally over. Congress president Sonia Gandhi today ended all speculation about the party’s prime ministerial candidate, making it amply clear that Dr Manmohan Singh is the man for the top job.

This was evident from her reference to Manmohan Singh in her “letter to Congresspersons” in the latest issue of the party mouthpiece Sandesh.

“He has led the UPA government with great distinction. He has many more years of service both to the party and to our country,” she said.

Practically endorsing Manmohan Singh as the party’s PM face, the Congress president added: “We look forward to his continued leadership and his inspiration to the younger generation particularly.”

Showering fulsome praise on the PM, Sonia Gandhi said: “He has been known for his wisdom and sagacity, for his humility and simplicity, for his quiet but firm resolve and his sobriety and dignity.”

Sonia’s timely remarks will put an end to the ongoing debate in the party about its PM candidate in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The Congress rank and file has been rooting for Nehru-Gandhi heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi and this talk gathered further momentum after the 76-year-old Prime Minister underwent a heart surgery two weeks ago. But the party president’s message shows there is no ambiguity as far she is concerned and that she continues to repose faith in Dr Manmohan Singh.

Sonia probably felt it necessary to clear the air on this score, well aware that Dr Singh’s surgery had led to considerable speculation in the party that his health may not permit him to take on PM’s responsibilities if the party is voted back to power. Besides, it was also essential to send out a message to all those who had started jockeying for this position. This was not confined to the Congress alone but UPA allies like NCP’s Sharad Pawar also pitched in for the PM’s slot.

However, Sonia had indicated her preference for Manmohan Singh as far back as last August. When asked if Manmohan Singh will unfurl the national flag at the Independence Day celebrations at the Red Fort in 2009, her immediate response was ,Why not, certainly.”

The Congress assessment is that Manmohan Singh still enjoys tremendous goodwill among the electorate, especially after the UPA government’s handling of the Mumbai attacks and the economic meltdown. Although national security and economy still remain areas of deep concern, the Congress believes it can score by holding out an assurance to the people that the situation will not worsen with a leader like Manmohan Singh at the helm. “We will project him as the captain who steered the ship very ably through choppy waters,” remarked a senior Congress minister.

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