New Delhi, Dec 31:
The Congress and the government Tuesday scotched rumours that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would announce his resignation Friday to make way for party vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Television channels, quoting sources, said the prime minister is likely to resign in his press conference scheduled Jan 3, paving way for Gandhi.
The government denied it.
“This report is completely baseless, based on conjecture and insinuation. I don’t even think it should be dignified with a response,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, responding to a question on Manmohan Singh’s resignation.
“Media persons keep cribbing that he (prime minister) doesn’t talk to them. Now that the prime minister has consented to talk to the press in the beginning of 2014, to even speculate in the manner in which it is being done, I think is in poor taste,” he told Times Now TV channel.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office too said the “PM will complete his full term”.
There is speculation in the Congress that Rahul may be named the party’s prime ministerial candidate Jan 17 when the party holds a conclave in Delhi ahead of the general elections likely April-May.
The Congress supported the PMO’s view. “When there is a denial from the PMO, there is no need for a clarification,” Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal told IANS. He, however, refused to comment whether Rahul would be named the PM candidate next month.
Put the same question, Tewari said: “I can only refer to the statement of Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) that an appropriate decision would be taken at an appropriate time.”
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s remark Monday that the Congress should name its prime ministerial candidate ahead of the polls to give a clear signal to the voters added to the speculation.
The speculation has gained ground as many in the Congress see low probability of a third term for Manmohan Singh if the Congress is able to form a government after the elections.
They feel in that case Rahul should take over. But, opinion is divided on the issue.
Many feel announcing Rahul’s name as the prime ministerial candidate would benefit the party against an aggressive campaign of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Others feel since Rahul is already the official number two in the party and would lead the poll campaign, he would be the natural choice as the prime minister if the Congress has numbers on its side after the Lok Sabha polls.
Despite a clarification from the Congress and the government, the BJP and the AAP said it would be dynastic politics if Manmohan Singh resigns to pave way for Rahul.
“If we go by speculation, it is their choice who they want as prime minister. But if they bring Rahul Gandhi, it will be dynastic politics,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, who is planning to contest against the Gandhi scion from Amethi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, said: “In the whole political life of Rahul Gandhi, there is nothing except his Gandhi surname.”
“Everyone knows the situation in Amethi. I think Congress is scared to keep him as an MP. They want to make him the prime minister. But it will be difficult to save him because people have decided,” he said.