PM’s health matter of concern but no replacement yet: Congress

January 22nd, 2009 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s health may be a cause for concern but ruling Congress leaders maintain there is no question of projecting anyone else for the top job, despite the chorus building up to bring in party general secretary Rahul Gandhi. A cross section of party leaders and ministers told IANS Thursday that the prime minister’s health was a matter of concern but there was no talk or discussion within the party about a replacement for the prime ministership should the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) come to power again after the Lok Sabha elections scheduled in a few months.

“Yes, it is true that Rahul Gandhi is being groomed for a bigger role and he will surely take over some day. But as of now the party has taken no decision. We don’t know if it can happen after the elections,” a senior leader told IANS, pleading anonymity as leadership issues were seldom debated in the public.

Manmohan Singh, 76, was Thursday discharged from the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences after undergoing a coronary angiography.

This is not the first time that his health has been a cause for worry. Earlier too he had a heart problem and stents were introduced to prop up open arteries.

He has also been operated for a benign enlargement of the prostate gland in Sep 2007, besides a minor surgical procedure to ease the pressure on a nerve in his right wrist.

“I know about his health problems but he is not on his death bed that we need to think about a replacement. The media creates this wild speculation and nurtures it,” a senior minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet told IANS.

Officially too, the party spoke in the same voice.

Party general secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters: “Congress president Sonia Gandhi has made it clear that Manmohan Singh is the prime minister and there is no change in it.”

Ditto Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.

“There is no question of a change. The Congress president has already announced his candidature.’

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is very much at the helm. There is no change in that situation. Nor is anyone talking of any other. He is working and is active. It’s business as usual for us,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told IANS.

A similar comment came from Congress leader, Salman Khurshid who works closely with Rahul Gandhi in the party’s Future Challenges Committee.

Gandhi, 38, was anointed as party general secretary in 2007 and put in charge of the Youth Congress following in the same footsteps of his father, Rajiv Gandhi who later became prime minister.

“Rahul is definitely proactive these days and it is there for everyone to see. He has a great say in important party affairs and making his presence felt. He attracts youngsters who form the bulk of voters in the country and he has also turned around the Youth Congress into a meaningful arm of the party,” said Khurshid.

“But all this in no way means that Manmohan Singh will not be around. We have a senior minister who comes in a wheelchair, does it mean that he will not be a minister again because of that? I don’t understand where all you get this information from?” queried another Congress stalwart.

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