Congress to project Manmohan Singh as PM candidate in LS poll

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New Delhi, Oct 1 (UNI) With just six months left for the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress today made it clear that it would project Dr Manmohan Singh as its Prime Ministerial candidate.

"Whatever Congress President Sonia Gandhi had said on the issue, that is the party's official line," AICC Spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told mediapersons, in reply to a question on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on his way back home from his ten-day tour of the US and France that it was too early to say who would be the Congress Prime Ministerial candidate in the Lok Sabha elections.

Asked which statement of Ms Gandhi he was referring to, he said "the statement she made at the AICC on August 15." Ms Gandhi had asked 'why not' when mediapersons wanted to know if Dr Singh would unfurl the national flag at the Red Fort at the Independence Day parade next year (2009).

The two-word remark of Ms Gandhi was interpreted as a clear indication of the decision of the Congress to project Dr Singh as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the ruling Congress-led UPA.

Asked if Dr Singh's statement meant that he would not be the contender for the post, leaving the chance to AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Dr Shakeel said, "the Prime Minister's statement does not mean that there is a second thought in party about the issue." To repeated questions on Dr Singh's statement, he said "only the Prime Minister can respond to what he had said. However, this issue should be ended here." Asked if the Congress would declare its Prime Ministerial candidate before the next Lok Sabha elections, Dr Shakeel said "we have not even finalised our manifesto." Notably the Congress had discouraged demands by some leaders like Mr Arjun Singh to project Mr Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate.

The demand for projecting Mr Gandhi gained momentum after the BJP announced Mr L K Advani as its candidate for the Prime Minister's Post.

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