New Delhi, Aug 15 (UNI) Congress President Sonia Gandhi today dropped clear hints that the UPA would project Dr Manmohan Singh as its Prime Ministerial candidate in the next general elections due early next year.
''Why not, certainly,'' she told mediapersons to a question if Dr Singh would unfurl the national flag from the Red Fort next year also.
Ms Gandhi made the brief statement in the presence of Dr Singh when both were approached by the newsmen after the former hoisted the national tri-colour at the AICC headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.
This is the first time that the Congress High Command has reacted to the suggestions from some of the allies to face the next general elections by projecting Dr Singh as Prime Ministerial candidate.
The Congress Party, however, had restrained senior Party leader and Union Minister Arjun Singh a few months ago when he openly demanded that AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi be projected as the next Prime Ministerial candidate.
Dr Singh, who was standing by the side of Ms Gandhi at the AICC, replied in a single word "hopefully" when he was asked the same question about the possibility of his addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort this day next year.
Marking the 62nd Independence Day, Dr Singh today unfurled the national flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort for the fifth time in a row and the last in his present tenure which expires in May 2009.
The Congress Party has been dodging the question of who will be its next Prime Ministerial candidate.
It has been repeatedly said by the party spokespersons that there was no convention in the party of projecting any individual as the future Prime Minister or Chief Minister before the elections.
It was also explained that the elected members of the Lok Sabha would choose a Leader in the event of the party getting a majority in the elections.
Ms Gandhi's statement may end speculation, at least for the time being, over Mr Rahul Gandhi replacing Dr Singh.
Any hint as to who would be the next Prime Minister, if the Congress Party returns to power, was not available even after the Opposition BJP publicly announced Mr L K Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate.
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