Sonia moves to end talk of Rahul becoming PM

April 15th, 2008 - 9:35 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Upset with some of her party colleagues for suggesting that her son Rahul Gandhi could be India’s prime minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Tuesday summoned Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh for “an explanation”, party sources said. Arjun Singh Monday stoked speculation about Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for the country’s top job when he said that there was no harm in projecting the first time MP as prime ministerial candidate because he had all the qualities of his late father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Within hours of Singh’s comment, Vayalar Ravi, a Congress leader and the minister for overseas Indian affairs, quickly added: “It is a good suggestion.”

By the end of Monday DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi endorsed Arjun Singh’s comments. He said in Chennai: “Rahul has the necessary family background and can learn while on the job.”

Hours before Sonia Gandhi met Singh at her 10 Janpath residence, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told the media in parliament: “I want to put an end to all speculations about prime ministership. There is no vacancy for the post.

“Congress president Sonia Gandhi and … Rahul Gandhi have always kept away from sycophants,” she added.

Natarajan’s statement was the most definitive on the subject, indicating clearly that Sonia Gandhi did not want to pit her son - a relative political novice - against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with whom she is known enjoy very cordial relations.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Sunday told CNN-IBN that his party would not oppose the candidature of Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi for the post of prime minister.

“It is for the Congress party to decide the issue of leadership,” he had said.

On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee described Arjun Singh’s statement as his “individual opinion” and asserted that there was no controversy over who will be the prime minister of a Congress-led government.

“There is no question of my (approving Arjun Singh’s comments) as there is no controversy (on the issue). What Arjun Singh said is his individual opinion,” he told reporters here.

Mukherjee, however, added: “There is nothing wrong in projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate as he has all the qualities. People always go for young leaders. That is the universal truth.

“We will decide at what point of time and in which forum this issue (of prime ministership) should be discussed.”

Asked if the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners had ever discussed the issue, the minister said: “There was no occasion to discuss the issue.”

As for Manmohan Singh’s opinion, Mukherjee said: “He has already explained his position.”

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