Congress maintains suspense on Rahul Gandhi’s projection

New Delhi, Jan 15: The Congress Wednesday maintained suspense on Rahul Gandhi’s possible declaration as its prime ministerial candidate at the AICC meeting Friday, with party leaders saying the decision will be known Jan 17.

Some party leaders are of the view that Gandhi should take over as prime ministerial candidate to give momentum to the party’s campaign for Lok Sabha polls.

Party sources said a section was in favour of projecting the prime ministerial candidate, with another group having reservations over such a course.

They said some leaders favour the Congress vice president’s elevation as prime minister, and not merely as prime ministerial candidate for the elections.

Sources said Gandhi attended a meeting of the Congress core group Wednesday, which indicated his growing role in the decision-making process.

They said the Congress Working Committee (CWC) would meet Thursday and is expected to finalise the draft of a resolution to be moved at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting Friday.

The CWC may also take a decision on various suggestions on projecting the prime ministerial candidate, party sources said.

A party leader said Gandhi was “likely” to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate at the AICC meeting.

The sources said there was also a view that Gandhi should take over as prime minister now.

“Decisions by him like extending subsidy on LPG cylinders to 12 or more and cutting down prices of petroleum products will help the party gain ground electorally,” a party leader said on condition of anonymity.

Sources said those pushing for declaring Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate feel it would help boost the morale of party workers.

These leaders feel the Congress should not appear faceless when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could project Arvind Kejriwal as its face for the elections.

The sources said those against projection of a prime ministerial candidate feel the party was late in making a move and Gandhi would have to do a lot of catching up.

Party leaders also say that after the Congress rout in the recent assembly polls, the party’s prospects do not appear bright in the Lok Sabha polls.

On Gandhi’s projection, party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said: “Whether there would be a decision or not, it will be known Jan 17. It will depend on what is the discussion in the CWC and the AICC.”

“The AICC will meet. It is a large democratic body. Mostly, such opinions lead to decisions which are correct,” he said, adding that Gandhi was the party’s “principal leader”.

“They (BJP and AAP) are fighting for the number two position”, Dikshit said in response to a question about Congress not naming Rahul as the candidate in view of the AAP claim that the fight for power would be between the party and the BJP.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy, present at the Congress briefing, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already said Gandhi had all the qualities to be prime ministerial candidate.

There was also speculation in the Congress that the party could decide to name Gandhi as chief of its campaign or working president without officially naming him the prime ministerial candidate.

There is also anticipation in the party of Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Vadra playing a more active role in chalking the party’s strategy for the polls.

IANS