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Is Congress divided over the PM issue?
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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January 24, 2009 20:27 IST
Last Updated: January 24, 2009 20:28 IST

The Congress on Saturday ruled out any change of leadership in the United Progressive Alliance government in view of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's illness.

Briefing media persons after a meeting of the party's manifesto committee, Congress leader Veerappa Moily said: "Our confidence is that within two weeks he (Dr Singh) will be back to duty with more energy."

To a question on why External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee [Images] was not made officiating prime minister, Moily said there cannot be two prime ministers, and as per the convention when the prime minister is abroad or away, certain functions are assigned to the senior-most minister.

Rejecting reports that some party leaders were lobbying for Pranab's appointment to the top post, Moily retorted, "Why should someone do that. Let me make it clear that there is no provision in the Constitution of having an acting prime minister when we have one already."

Incidentally, the meeting of the manifesto committee was chaired by Pranab Mukherjee.

Sources in the party say the Congress ranks are divided over the issue. While one group of leaders backs Pranab for the prime minister's post and feels that this should have been done way back, another section is glad that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] didn't pass over the baton to the External Affairs Minister.

Meanwhile, the party seems to have chalked out a strategy for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. After the manifesto committee's meeting, Moily said, "We have concluded our discussions. We had 15 group meetings and wide range of discussions with party's chief ministers, state congress chiefs and other leaders. They have given us excellent feedback."

He refused to elaborate on the thrust of the party's campaign.

"If we expose ourselves today itself, our strategy would be known. Wait for sometime you would get to know," he said.

Among the notable absentees in the meeting was Rahul Gandhi [Images].

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