Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chacko toes official line on twin-power centre

NEW DELHI, April 4, 2013

A day after Congress media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi praised the twin power centres model, party spokesperson P.C. Chacko endorsed it as the organisation's official line.

But it didn't stop general secretary Digvijay Singh, who had set off the controversy by saying that the experiment of sharing of influence and clout had not worked well, from reiterating that he stood by what he had said.

"Whatever I have said is on record and, therefore, I stand by it," Mr. Singh told journalists on Wednesday, adding: "But the views of the Congress spokesperson and Congress party are supreme for me. So I would abide by that."

All that this series of statements has succeeded in doing is confuse the issue of who the party's prime ministerial candidate for 2014 will be — incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi or someone else nominated by Mr. Gandhi.

For the moment though Mr. Singh is the one addressing the party faithful, hoping to energise them by saying that Mr. Gandhi will lead the troops into the electoral battle and he alone is the prime ministerial candidate. Mr. Dwivedi, on the other hand, is addressing the electorate — that the party has full faith in Dr. Singh as Prime Minister.

Asked whether Mr. Gandhi will be the Congress' prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Dwivedi said on Tuesday: "Rahul Gandhi has been made Congress vice-president. Since he has been given the responsibility of the organisation, strengthening the party and the organisation is his priority … What happens thereafter will be decided by the party. Today, Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister and this arrangement is working well."

Indeed, on Wednesday, when Mr. Chacko was questioned on the issue, he took his cue from Mr. Dwivedi and said: "We don't take decisions like that ... The Parliamentary Board takes a decision." Party president Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Gandhi and the Prime Minister, he stressed, work closely and "there is absolutely no difference of opinion" among them. Elections, he pointed out, would take place only in 2014 and though Dr. Singh was suitable for the top job, the party would collectively decide after the elections "when we emerge as a majority."

Even in 2009, Ms. Gandhi had indicated his candidature, he recalled, only on the eve of the elections, which are still far away. Asked whether Mr. Gandhi was the prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Chacko, echoing what the PM said recently, replied: "We will cross the stream when we reach there."
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