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Congress does damage control

Smita Gupta

New Delhi: The Congress, once again, had to do a spot of damage control on Monday with a remark made by general secretary Digvijay Singh being construed as indicating that the party's yuvraj — and general secretary — Rahul Gandhi was about to take over the reigns of the government. “Dr. Manmohan Singh is Prime Minister at this point of time,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told a press conference, stressing, “and will continue to lead us as Prime Minister.”

“Our Prime Minister is Dr. Manmohan Singh and he has done an excellent job in leading the government over these last seven years,” she said in response to a question, adding, “I would also like to point out that Rahul Gandhi has brought about a tremendous change, by democratising the party, reaching out to farmers, to ‘Dalits,' to disadvantaged sections and by attracting a large number of youth.”

Having done a fine balancing act, she clarified that Mr. Gandhi was a leader of the future and that no mid-term change in government was in the offing. “He (Rahul) has emerged as not only as a youth icon,” Ms. Natarajan said, “but as a future leader and future leader of not only this party but of the country. The time for him to take over is something he will decide, the party high command will decide, the people of India will decide.”

Digvijay issues denial

Mr. Digvijay Singh denied having said it was “high time” for Mr. Gandhi to become Prime Minister, and added that such a decision would have to be taken by the party and Mr. Gandhi himself. “I have never said ‘high time'... I've said he (Rahul) has the full potential to become a good Prime Minister,” he told journalists here on Monday, stressing, “When he (Mr. Gandhi) becomes (the Prime Minister) depends on the people of the country, the Congress and himself.”

Earlier, Ms. Natarajan trained her guns on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, pointing to “a spate of horrific atrocities against women, ” and the “deteriorating law and order situation” in the State.

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