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Rahul Gandhi to lead Congress poll campaign

Friday, 17 January 2014 - 10:45am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Sonia says party needn't name a prime ministerial candidate.
  • AP

Congress president Sonia Gandhi put her foot down on the clamour for making her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi the prime ministerial candidate ahead of the general elections, saying, “the Congress doesn’t have such a tradition.” Avoiding to make 2014 elections a ‘battle of personalities’, she chose to make it a ‘battle of ideologies’, a senior party leader said soon after the Congress Working Committee meeting, the party’s highest decision-making body.

At least 16 members of the CWC, who spoke, argued for projecting Rahul as face for the top post to confront BJP’s candidate Narendra Modi.

Sources said, after the elaborate speech laced with traditional sycophancy, Gandhi intervened, saying the party need not follow others. Replying to party leaders’ argument to go to elections with a face, she insisted the party should bank on its ‘ideology’ and the achievements of the UPA government the over past nine-and-a-half years. She, however, said the Rahul Gandhi will lead party’s campaign. Rahul Gandhi, who also spoke, said he felt that people were trying to attack the Congress ideology and he was committed to protecting it. He reiterated that he will do whatever the party expects him to do.

“Sonia Gandhi herself opposed nominating Rahul as the PM candidate. Just because one party has announced its PM candidate, we need not announce one, she said,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said after the meeting. He said that Rahul himself also did not want to be named the Congress’s PM candidate and just wanted to work for the party. A resolution entrusting the campaign to Rahul Gandhi was approved at the CWC meeting will now be ratified at the AICC session here on Friday.

Dwivedi said all agreed to Sonia’s decision as they said everyone in the Congress knows who is its leader in this election and hence there is no need for any debate on the name.

On Wednesday as reported by dna, Rahul had himself ruled out his anointment in the Congress core group meeting on Wednesday as “undemocratic.” Sonia echoed this view in the CWC meeting – that it is always the elected MPs who elect the leader and everyone knows who that leader is. She sought to stub out the issue in the CWC meeting, lest it overshadow the AICC session, defeating the purpose of the gathering in the election year.

At the CWC meeting, Kerala home minister and PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala took the lead to voice his opinion in favour of Rahul being named for the top executive post. He mentioned Modi’s aggressive campaigning and BJP transforming the Lok Sabha battle as a presidential election.
He said it has necessitated urgency for the Congress as well to name a prime ministerial candidate, a first in its electoral history. He was followed and supported by union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, general secretaries Gurudas Kamat and B K Hariprasad and Assam PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita.

After 16 speeches, Sonia Gandhi intervened, asserting that there is no such Congress tradition to go to polls with a PM candidate and there is no such compulsion just because some other party declares its own PM candidate. West Bengal PCC president Pradip Bhattacharya tried to argue with her that it helps in the election if there is a clarity on who is going to be the party leader in parliament.

Conceding his contention, Sonia closed the issue saying the Congress will declare that the next election campaign will be under Rahul’s leadership. This led to an amendment in the overarching single resolution the CWC cleared for discussion in the AICC session on Friday.

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