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|January 10, 1998||
If the Congress doesn't project Sonia or Dr Singh as its top candidate, it will clear the way for Vajpayee's second coming
So Sonia doesn't want to contest. So she has made it clear to even the blindest of Congressmen she doesn't care to be their top candidate. Good for her. Good for the party too -- it knows that it will have to make do without her.
Which brings us to a crucial question: If not Sonia (who's undoubtedly the best choice for the Congress), who? Sitaram Kesri? Should he be suffered for the post? Or maybe someone else?
If you ask me, I would rather opt for that 'someone' else. (Kesri is out for obvious reasons.) And my 'someone' is former finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
The Congress needs not only a good face to carry it, but a man of capacity. A man who can take on BJP's Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is the tallest politician in Indian politics today. Vajpayee is a man of the masses, a brilliant orator who knows how to get the crowd eating out of his hand. His clean image and political acumen has lured many amongst the middleclass. No other issue including Ayodhya will prove so beneficial to the BJP as having Vajpayee as its candidate.
And the Congress needs a candidate who can take on such a man. A man who is clean, a man who is capable, a man who the masses will identify as 'good'. That's where Dr Singh comes in.
In fact, the BJP's election plank being Stable Government, Able Prime Minister, I would say Dr Singh is the only sane choice. Arguably, there are other leaders in the Congress who are as capable as Vajpayee. But these politicians do not find the unanimous acceptability which Dr Singh does among his colleagues. And Dr Singh is the only person who has a snow-white chit.
But most important, he stands for stability. He can lure the middle class with the promise, 'Vote for me, I will give you stability'.
Dr Singh's track record effectively answers both the posers in the BJP's stability-ability plank. Narasimha Rao's minority government owed its stability to Dr Singh. As architect of India's universally-acclaimed economic reforms, his reputation cuts across party lines.
Sitaram Kesri is quite aware of Dr Singh's standing. In fact, when Deve Gowda was brought down, the Congress chief had the former finance minister's name in mind as one of the possible candidates for the job. Dr Singh has an excellent equation with Kesri. In fact, though Rao never appointed him a CWC member, Kesri brought Dr Singh twice into the apex body in his comparatively shorter tenure as party chief.
In the post-election scenario, if there is a possibility of a Congress-led United Front coalition, Dr Singh will find acceptability with all constituents bar the Communists. The team of Dr Singh as PM and Palaniappan Chidambaram as finance minister may attract a lot many investors.
Though many Congressmen back Dr Singh's candidature, whether he will be given the job or not remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: if the party does not project Sonia or Dr Singh as its candidate for the top slot, it will clear the way for Vajpayee's second coming.
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