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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

Priyanka not to contest, Rahul face of aam-aadmi

January 15, 2009

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi's [Images] daughter Priyanka Vadra [Images] will not contest in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, a senior and influential Congress leader told rediff.com.

He said that as usual and as expected, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi's [Images] pictures will be prominent on all propaganda material, which will also feature Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images].

Rahul Gandhi spending time with Dalit families is also part of the Congress's poll strategy to link the future face of the Congress with the common man, the leader said.

"In the coming elections, the Congress is unlikely to shift its focus from the aam admi," the leader said, adding, "How can we dump the aam admi?"

When asked further about Rahul Gandhi, he refused to elaborate and said," Wait till the elecitons."

The Congress believes that till four months ago its government was facing anti-incumbency and allegations of being soft on terrorism and inflation, but the party is now far better off than what it was in September.

Despite the Mumbai [Images] attacks, electoral wins in New Delhi [Images] and Rajasthan have rejuvenated the party and measures to curb the inflation have worked, the leader said.

P Chidambaram's [Images] management of the home ministry has helped improve the government's image. "National Security Advisor M K Narayanan is no more calling the shots. He is now just one of the officers invited by the home minister's office  for consultation on security matters."

Rather, the home minister has appointed his own advisor on matters of internal security.

A senior leader who is in the know of things also said with confidence that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] will not be a threat to the Congress. "He is a threat to L K Advani [Images] and the Bharatiya Janata Party," a senior leader said.

When attention was drawn to the fact that India's biggest industrial captains are batting for Modi, he said: "The industrialists dare not have anything but praise for him when they want favours from Modi to run their industries in Gujarat."

On the Congress's strategy for the elections, he said if the Samajwadi Party and the Congress form a pre-poll alliance, Mayawati [Images] will be restricted to 30 or fewer seats in Uttar Pradesh [Images], which has 80 constituencies.

But, if the SP decides to contest on its own, Maywati will emerge stronger and can cross the 40-seat mark, he said.

He added that an internal survey showed that across the nation, the Congress is likely to get 15 to 25 more seats than the BJP.

Talking about the mood of Muslims, he said barring Uttar Pradesh, the community will not go against the Congress and is likely to vote for the Congress if it finds the candidate has a chance to win.

As has been happening in the last few elections, the Muslim community might support a non-BJP candidate belonging to either a regional party, the Congress or one of the Left parties.


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