Rahul Gandhi's anointment as the Congress prime ministerial candidate appears to be a mere formality, the party indicated on Friday after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared he would bow out of office after the Lok Sabha elections.
"There is a principle and there is a ritual (karmkand). As far as the principle is concerned, the entire party, the whole world knows that Rahul Gandhi's name will come first whenever the question of Prime Ministership will crop up in Congress. But political parties have certain formalities, a process.
"When those formalities will happen, when the announcement will be made is something on which there is no further scope left for the party to say something officially when Congress President Sonia Gandhi has already said that the party candidate will be declared at an opportune time," party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters here.
There is a speculation that the party can declare the name of Gandhi as its PM candidate for 2014 even before the AICC meeting on January 17. However, senior party functionaries declined to comment on it.
A meeting of Congress Working Committee to finalise the resolution for the AICC meeting will take place on January 16.
A senior party functionary speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, said that is not necessary to take the decision on naming anybody a PM candidate in the CWC meeting as it is something, which can also be taken up directly at the AICC meeting. There is intense speculation that the AICC meeting will see the declaration of Gandhi as PM candidate.
Talking to reporters Dwivedi dismissed as "unnecessary question" when asked whether somebody other than the Congress Vice President be named as party's PM candidate.
"I have already answered that question," he said without elaborating further.
The senior Congress leader stated close to the top leadership further said seeking to set the record straight, "the party has always maintained that after Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi holds the second place. Whenever a question about Prime Ministership in Congress comes up, the entire party will like to seek that Rahul Gandhi holds that post.
"But as long as this decision is not taken officially, the party will say nothing on that except that it is Rahul Gandhi who comes after Sonia Gandhi in the party." "I will hand over the baton to a new prime minister," the Prime Minister said strongly backing Rahul Gandhi for the top job.
Dwivedi also dismissed questions on whether the party still has trust in the capacity of Rahul Gandhi to deliver in the electoral battle in view of the drubbing of Congress in recent assembly polls.
"This is a very narrow vision. This should not be looked at from this prism. Victories and defeats are normal in elections. Parties like Congress are not unhappy with these kind of things," he said.
The AICC general secretary also made light of a question on whether Congress is not running out of time as far as declaring its PM candidate for the next general elections are concerned said this is something which the party will decide.
Asked what new role the party envisages for the Prime Minister after 2014, Dwivedi said that this will depend on what situation emerges then and what role the Prime Minister wants for himself. "First he has to choose, then it is for us," he said.
Dwivedi also felt that there is "no new situation" with the Prime Minister ruling himself out as party's PM candidate for the next elections and reminded that the party has always scotched speculations like any change of guard in the government before the next Lok Sabha polls.
When told that the party was bifurcated when late Indira Gandhi held both the posts of Congress President and the Prime Minister, Dwivedi interjected saying, "No the party was not divided in two blocks. During Indira Gandhi's time, the party was the strongest."
There is already a view in the party that having two power centres like the Congress President and the Prime Minister being separate individuals does no good to Congress, a phenomenon witnessed since Manmohan Singh was made Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi taking the command of the party.
Dwivedi, however, sought to downplay the issue saying this phrase of double power centres is wrong as in a democracy it is the position of the party is higher than that of the government, which though has its functional autonomy.
"This phrase is wrong. In democracy, it the party, which fights elections, decides its Prime Minister or Chief Minister candidate, its leaders. The party is the Centre. Governments belong to parties. Parties form the government and not the vice versa.
"The head of a government has the independence, the autonomy to work and frame their policies. The governments also implement the policies of parties and in a way the position of the party becomes higher than the government," he said.