Sinking Congress grabs at ‘Nilekani-as-PM’ straw

New Delhi :  After the 4-0 drubbing received by the ruling party, the Congress stocks have sunk so low that there is speculation about the technocrat Nandan Nilekani being named as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Sinking Congress grabs at ‘Nilekani-as-PM’ straw

The state of unease within the party was indicated by the fact that no one dismissed it as rubbish. Instead there was a non-committal response from union law minister Salman Khurshid who said: “We have our own leaders. Nilekani is also working with us.”

Even the party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit did not come out with a categorical denial. He said:  “I do not know from where this talk has come from. That newspaper does not necessarily mean the opinion of the Congress party. Right now it is hypothetical. It is best if you could ask somebody in the paper. They will be able to answer. I do not know either the source of the information or the strength behind it. Since I do not know where this news has come from, I do not think I will be able to give you an appropriate reply. “

Nilekani first figured in political speculation as a possible Congress candidate from the Bangalore Lok Sabha constituency. Basically, a technocrat, Nilekani quit one of the most high-profile jobs in corporate India to take over as chairman of the Unique Identification Authority, which is implementing the Aadhar identity cards to allow the poorest to receive benefits directly from the government. This talk of him running for the country’s top job picked up after Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Sunday, after the party’s massive defeat in four states, that a prime ministerial candidate would be named at an “opportune time”.

This speculation has gained strength primarily because the clear choice for the Prime Minister’s post from the Congress —Rahul Gandhi — has so far refused to make any public acceptance of this offer. Even senior leaders like Digvijay Singh have said that the party will benefit if Gandhi formally runs for the PM’s post.

But most political parties were dismissive about him. “These days, anything is possible,” said senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, and the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav observed it was an internal affair of the party. His party man Ram Gopal Yadav asked, “Who is this Nilekani?”

Shivanand Tiwari, a senior Rajya Sabha member belonging to the Janata Dal-United, also echoed the question. “Who knows him in this country? If Congress is hell-bent on committing suicide, then what can we say? Rahul would be a better candidate,” he said.

Anil Sharma

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