Mr Prime Minister, who will be next the Prime Minister? The question is chasing Dr Manmohan Singh.
Every time Rahul Gandhi says it is an “irrelevant” query and every time Narendra Modi desires to pay his debt to the nation, Singh is quizzed. As if, the real race can’t begin unless the incumbent rules himself out of it.
Well, Manmohan Singh said on Friday, “I am not ruling it in, I’m not ruling it out.” On a more direct hit, on whether he’s willing to vacate his chair in favour of a younger Rahul, he said, “Oh yes, any day.” There was no time frame mentioned, he did not offer one.
For those interested, Singh’s current term in the Rajya Sabha is ending on June 4, 2013. In all likelihood he will be re-elected to the Upper House from Assam, where his party, the Congress, has a majority. Whether he gets re-elected to the Prime Minister’s office, for a third term in the running, depends on a far bigger election. For which, his party has to get a renewed mandate, fighting the odds and nine years of incumbency.
Singh, therefore, pointed to the futility of the current debate, sparked off by a Congress party colleague of his—Digvijaya Singh. “It is a hypothetical question—we are yet to complete this term.” He tried hard to side-step a comparison, “Rahul’s speech at the CII was excellent.”
Without bowing out of the race, Singh said that he welcomed Rahul as a popular choice to replace him. Many believe, ‘replacement’ is the key word in the Congress strategy, devised to save Rahul—by his own admission at the CII conference “not a hardnosed politician”—from direct exposure.
It is Singh who will have to either take the hit or come out of the tussle, winner.
Rahul, meanwhile, will be playing the “outsider”, taking a critical view of the ‘system’ and asking for ‘structural’ changes.
The 42-year-old, who’s yet to have a brush with governance, will not be made to own up the failings of the UPA government—of the scams and the policy paralysis—of the division of power between 7 Race Course Road and 10 Janpath.
As long as Singh is there, he can face the googlies, refute the charges from within and outside, “Dual power centre theory in UPA is a figment of imagination. This is the creation of the media. It is a useless debate.” Whether he can be useful in winning his party a third term—only the elections can tell. And, he will cross the bridge then.
Meanwhile, the Congress party ruled out any contradiction between its stand on “two power centres” and the comments by Singh dismissing the debate on the issue as “useless”, while it was evasive on the projection of Rahul as its face in Lok Sabha polls. “There is no contradiction between the party and the government,” said party spokesperson Rashid Alvi.