Decision on Rahul final, says Sonia Gandhi to Congress
New Delhi – A gigantic Congress meet in Delhi today tried to shake off the atmosphere of an anti-climax as senior leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived on stage.
The morale among the thousands of party workers gathered at Talkatora Stadium seemed low on account of Mrs Gandhi deciding last night that her son will not be named as prime ministerial candidate. Instead, the 43-year-old will lead the campaign for the national election which must be held by May.
“The decision taken on Rahul last night is final,” Mrs Gandhi, who is party president, said in response to those who shouted slogans of “Rahul for PM.”
Then, in her opening speech, she stressed that the Congress remains committed to secularism. “We meet today to send the clear signal that Congress is ready and prepared for the battle ahead,” Mrs Gandhi said, adding that 2014 will be “a sharpening of a contest between competing ideologies and interpretations of the past and clashing visions of the future.”
After more than a decade in power, the Congress is lagging well behind the BJP in opinion polls. In recent elections in key states like Delhi, Mr Gandhi was the star campaigner for the Congress but failed to deliver, with the party performing miserably.
A section of the party believed that naming Mr Gandhi as its candidate would inject some vigour into its campaign at a time when voters associate the Congress with stubborn inflation and deep-rooted corruption.
But senior leaders have been concerned that officially declaring Mr Gandhi their candidate would turn the election into a personality battle between him and the BJP’s Narendra Modi, whose confrontation and direct style could give him the advantage.