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'Why Not': Rahul Gandhi Ends Silence on PM Bid in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections; BJP Mocks 'Lofty Dream'

This is the first time that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has explicitly expressed interest in joining the political executive if elected to power.

News18.com

Updated:May 8, 2018, 5:33 PM IST
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'Why Not': Rahul Gandhi Ends Silence on PM Bid in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections; BJP Mocks 'Lofty Dream'
(Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com)
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New Delhi: In what is being seen as an attempt to lay claim over the leadership of the united opposition after 2019 General Elections, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said he is “willing” to become the Prime Minister if his party emerges as the “single-largest” bloc in the Lok Sabha.

Gandhi was responding to a question by journalists in Bengaluru on whether he was willing to become the Prime Minister if the anti-BJP parties garner numbers post 2019 elections.

“If the Congress wins with the single-largest majority, then why not,” Gandhi said.

The Congress president is on an election tour of Karnataka, which will vote on Saturday. His PM bid is a message to party cadre in the poll-bound state of the party's determination to wrest power back at the Centre next year.

This is the first time that Gandhi has explicitly expressed interest in joining the political executive if elected to power. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Amethi in UP in 2004, 2009 and 2014.

Soon after Gandhi’s remark, the BJP took potshots, saying the Congress president, who is harbouring "lofty dreams" despite his party's losing spree, should first try to win state elections.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said while it is Gandhi's right to "dream" about becoming the prime minister, even Congress' allies were not accepting him as their leader. He reminded Gandhi that after he became Congress vice president, "his party lost 13 states and after he took over as party president, it has lost five states and Karnataka will be the sixth one".

"Look at the irony, Congress is losing state after state ever since Gandhi took over as party's vice president and then party chief. But he is dreaming to become the prime minister. Even Congress' allies are not accepting him as their leader," Hussain told reporters.

The BJP leader emphasised that the country will once again elect Narendra Modi as their prime minister. "Aakhir dil ki baat zubaan par aa hi gayi (Finally what was in his heart has come out," Hussain said on Gandhi's remarks

"It is good to see that he has such lofty dreams. It is his right. But, to become the prime minister, he has to win some, at least some state elections and make chief ministers of his choice. Under his leadership, the party is not winning any state election and he is dreaming of becoming the prime minister," he said.

He, however, did not join the Manmohan Singh Cabinet nor evinced interest in leading the government despite the Congress being in power for 10 years.

In December, Gandhi officially took over as the Congress chief, taking the baton from mother Sonia Gandhi, who led the Congress for almost two decades.

With a pan-India presence, the Congress has a greater possibility of emerging as the single-largest opposition party. The challenge, however, will be to resist pressure from smaller regional satraps, who may come together after elections and prod the Congress to support a consensus candidate from the regional bloc.

Gandhi’s claim over the leadership of the alternative alliance is also aimed to pre-empt a redux of 1996 and 1998 when the onus of sustaining a non-BJP government fell on the Congress.

“The overwhelming response in the party is that he is a natural leader of the party. I am glad that people are thinking about a PM other than Narendra Modi. If there is a coalition of parties, we will consult everyone and the PM will be chosen,” said senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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