M A I N   N E W S

Rahul won’t be PM nominee, but will lead campaign 2014
Sonia opposes elevation, says no precedent to name candidate before polls 
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
The Congress on Thursday decided against nominating party vice-president Rahul Gandhi as its Prime Ministerial candidate ahead of the April-May General Elections and instead declared him the leader of its poll campaign.

The opposition to Rahul’s elevation came from none other than his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who cited party conventions to argue that the prerogative of nominating the Prime Minister rested with the elected MPs in the parliamentary form of democracy practiced in the country.

“Where is it written that the PM has to be announced before hand? There is no such tradition in the Congress. Just because others have announced a PM candidate doesn’t mean we must follow. We have a PM and he will complete his term,” Sonia told the participants at the extended session of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). It then decided to settle for the declaration of Rahul as the party’s campaign leader despite a huge clamour for his elevation as PM nominee after Kerala Congress president Ramesh Chennithala raised the issue.

Party general secretary in-charge of organisation Janardan Dwivedi told reporters after the meeting that Sonia intervened when she saw the demand for Rahul’s elevation becoming too big to handle and her will finally prevailed. Those who made the demand today were AICC general secretary BK Hariprasad, senior Gujarat Congress leader SS Vaghela, Youth Congress chief Rajeev Satav and Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza.

Rahul is said to have accepted the CWC’s decision and said he was a dedicated soldier of the party and would do what the party wanted him to. “Rahulji also said attempts were being made (by the Opposition) to attack the core of the Congress ideology,” Dwivedi said quoting Rahul.

Rahul had recently said he would accept any role the Congress gave him. He had remained evasive on the question of being made the party’s PM candidate - a direct indication of the fact that he also didn’t want to take the plunge - something for which he has been criticised.

Rahul’s formal declaration as head of the Congress 2014 Lok Sabha campaign will happen tomorrow at the AICC Session where a one line resolution approved by the CWC today will be ratified and passed. “This meeting of the AICC declares that the 2014 election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” it will say. After the CWC’s discussions, this line was made part of the 22nd paragraph of the omnibus resolution the AICC will adopt tomorrow on various social and welfare issues indicating Congress’ poll strategy for 2014.

The decision of the CWC led by Sonia reflects the sentiment of the Congress old guard that had advised her against nominating Rahul for PM and thereby walking into the BJP trap.

AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, senior leader Manishankar Aiyar and Rahul-confidant Jairam Ramesh were against this move. Their argument: the Congress has always followed a parliamentary system where the PM is elected by the chosen MPs. Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel is also said to have held the same view.

Today at the CWC when there was resistance to Sonia’s decision to not name Rahul as PM nominee, Patel is learnt to have intervened, telling the gathering, “Soniaji has clarified. The issue stands resolved.”

Aware that the Opposition BJP will make a huge issue of the move, calling the Congress and Rahul weak and unsure, Dwivedi said, “I would not like to comment on the ignorance of the Opposition. Let these issues be raised in parties given to disputes and rancour. In our party, the PM nominee has never been the question - not during Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, not during Indiraji, Rajeevji and Soniaji’s time. Rahul is our natural leader after Sonia Gandhi. What the CWC decided reflects that position.”

Politically speaking, Sonia’s decision is being seen as mature as it would placate UPA allies such as NCP’s Sharad Pawar, who has shown resistance to working under Rahul. A CWC meeting participant told TNS, “The spirit of Soniaji’s argument was that in a democracy and coalition era you can’t presuppose the consent of people.”

Asked what would become of Sonia’s December 8, 2013 statement after defeats in four states when she had said the PM candidate would be declared at an opportune time, Dwivedi said, “She holds that view. Let the opportune time come.”

No Rahul vs Modi

* The decision to not name Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate will prevent him from being exposed to the BJP tirade, which would have followed had he been elevated and pitted against Narendra Modi

* The Congress old guard had advised Sonia Gandhi against nominating Rahul for PM and thereby walking into the BJP trap

* Their argument was that the Congress has always followed a parliamentary system where the PM is elected by the chosen MPs

* Sonia’s decision would also placate UPA allies such as NCP’s Sharad Pawar, who has shown resistance to working under Rahul





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