PM comments may have been to end debate


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cryptic remarks, which were construed as an indication of his readiness for a third term, was not an exercise in self-projection but a calculated move to put a lid on the fractious debate over the party's PM candidate in 2014 elections.

Congress sources said the PM's statement had the backing of party chief Sonia Gandhi who was "upset" by recent attempts by some leaders to "undermine" the authority of the PM by engaging in a debate on the party's next PM candidate.

The debate on Rahul's stance on prime ministership was muddied recently after party general secretary Digvijaya Singh disapproved of "two power centres". Though Singh had clarified that Sonia never interfered in the running of the government, his comment was said to have upset her.

When the PM was asked if he would accept the top job if the Congress were to form the next government, he said it was a hypothetical question and maintained, "We will cross the bridge when we reach there."

His remarks were interpreted as his readiness for the third term as PM.

On Friday, party leaders were circumspect in their reaction to his remarks. "He has articulated a position. There is nothing to add or subtract from it," said I&B Minister Manish Tewari. "The statement itself is very clear. No clarification is needed. Till 2014, Manmohan Singh is our PM," said Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi.

Sources sought to draw a parallel between Manmohan Singh's latest comment and Atal Behari Vajpayee's famous "neither tired, nor retired" remark in 2003 when the then PM faced a strong pitch by some in his party to project L K Advani as the PM candidate in 2004 general elections.

"All that PM's remarks indicate is that he is sick and tired of attempts by party snipers to undermine his authority. He feels he still has it in him to run the government efficiently. His comment should be seen more in the immediate context than in terms of any individual ambitions," said a Congress leader.

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