statesman news service
NEW DELHI, 13 JULY: The Congress today downplayed the party general secretary, Mr Digvijay Singh’s (in photo) hint that the party vice president, Mr Rahul Gandhi, might not be projected as its Prime Ministerial candidate for the coming general elections.
Joining issue with Mr Singh, another AICC general secretary, Mr Janardan Dwivedi, who is also in charge of the organisation, brushed aside the former’s comment in this regard as a “personal opinion”.  
“Individuals may have their personal opinions, but on such issues final decision is taken by the party only. The party has declared in Jaipur at the time when Rahul Gandhi’s appointment as vice president was announced that the question of campaign and leadership will be decided by it later. No time-frame was announced,” Mr Dwivedi told reporters.
He was replying to a question on Mr Singh’s recent remark indicating that Mr Gandhi might not be projected as the PM candidate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
“We do not have a presidential form of government. Congress party does not declare PM or CM candidates before elections…Even in the Karnataka Assembly elections we had not declared any CM candidate,” Mr Singh was yesterday quoted as saying while replying to questions as to why the Congress was diffident about projecting Rahul, why it should not project him and who is the party’s PM candidate. Mr Dwivedi’s bid to make it clear that the Congress has not taken a position on the issue so far indicated that Rahul’s projection as its PM candidate could not be ruled out.  
On whether the incumbent PM Mr Manmohan Singh could again be the party’s candidate for this job, Mr Singh had parried the question, saying purportedly: “First the country has to give us a mandate again and then the Parliamentary Party and the party chief (Mrs Sonia Gandhi) have to take a decision in consultation with elected MPs."
The Congress believes that Rahul is the party’s “natural choice” as its PM candidate in his capacity as its number two leader after Mrs Gandhi who had already renounced the top job in favour of Dr Singh in 2004.  
Despite Mr Singh’s remarks making waves, the AICC general secretary and its communication department chief, Mr Ajay Maken, refrained from making any comments on the issue. 
Officially, the AICC has all along shied away from replying to the question whether Rahul will be its PM candidate in the 2014 elections.
It has maintained that any decision on the issue will be taken by the party high command at an appropriate time.
Meanwhile, Mr Gandhi today held deliberations with Congress leaders from Maharashtra on the strategy for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections at a time when the party is in a buoyant mood after the victory in the Sangli civic body polls.
Several senior leaders, including Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, PCC president Manikrao Thakre, senior Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane were present at the meeting with the Congress vice-president. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, whose name is doing the rounds as the next PCC chief, was also present as also AICC general secretaries Gurudas Kamat and Mukul Wasnik.