India Today Online New Delhi, January 16, 2014
The decision was taken at the two-hour meeting of the extended Congress Working Committee brushing aside an overwhelming demand for anointing him the PM nominee ahead of the polls.
Addressing those who voiced the clamour for declaration of Rahul as PM candidate, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said there is no tradition in the party to declare a PM candidate before polls.
The demand for Rahul to be made PM candidate was raised by Kerala PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala and got instant support from a host of leaders including B K Hari Prasad, Gurudas Kamat, Ghulam Nabi Azad and youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav.
Soon after the CWC meeting began, Chennithala made a strong pitch to declare Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate saying “time has now come to do it” and reasoned this will enthuse the youth and will be beneficial for Congress in the changed demographic scenario.
As the leaders made a common chorus to name Rahul as PM pick, Sonia Gandhi intervened saying why should the party name a PM candidate before polls when there is no such precedent.
“This meeting of the AICC delcares that 2014 election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi,” the CWC decided adding the line in the omnibus draft resolution which will come before the AICC meeting tomorrow for approval.
Rahul has been entrusted to lead the campaign a year after he was made the party Vice President in the brain storming session at Jaipur in January last.
Taking a dig at BJP, which has declared Narendra Modi as its PM candidate, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that in Congress the question of making anyone the PM candidate never arose starting from the era of Jawaharlal Nehru to the 2004 elections, which the party fought under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi.
“It is always clear who is the leader in Congress. It is never an issue for us,” he said adding it is an issue for those parties which have seen intense rivlary and dissension over Prime Ministerial candidate.
Reacting to the CWC decision, Rahul Gandhi said he is a dedicated worker of the party and would carry out whatever responsibility given by the organization.
Dwivedi sought to dismiss the perception that Congress was shying away from declaring its PM candidate due to apprehensions of a poor show in the next polls at a time when Modi-led BJP appears to have an advantage.
“There is no such traditon in Congress (to declare a PM candidate). It is not necessary that we also declare our PM candidate if some other parties have also done it. It is always clear in Congress who is the leader and who will head the government.”
“If the election campaign is happening under his leadership, then in a way the future leadership is also in his hands,” Dwivedi said.
In the CWC meeting, Chennithala wondered why the party is “shying away” from naming Rahul as PM pick. He argued there may not be a precedent in the party but in the changed situations, this is the need of the hour.
After the Congress President decided there is no need to declare anybody a PM candidate before the polls, senior party leaders Digvijay Singh and Ajit Jogi endorsed her. Singh also pointed out the intricacies involved with regard to the party Constitution in this matter.
Rahul Gandhi said there is an attempt to hurt the ideology of Congress and he is committed to protecting it.
Hailing the decision not to name Rahul as PM candidate and make him the lead face of Congress campaign, party veteran M L Fotedar said this was a “perfect” decision as “after all the next Prime Minister will be declared by the members of Parliament after the next Lok Sabha.”
In the meeting, party general secretary B K Hari Prasad said that there is a need for Congress to take up the issue of secularism more aggressively and since Gandhi family is known for its secular credentials, the projection of Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate will boost the confidence of secular forces.
He said the slogan of development will not work in the elections and the 2014 Lok Sabha is a fight between the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi and Nathu Ram Godse.
Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also said that when the Opposition party has projected a face, Congress should also do it.
AICC General Secretary Gurudas Kamat resented frequent rise in the price of fuels and demanded an increase in the numbers of subsidised cylinders for households.
Sonia Gandhi in her concluding remarks said, “Ups and downs are part of the life of a political party and there is no need to be disappointed from the results of recent Assembly elections. Congress workers should fight the upcoming polls strongly.”