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Sonia opposes naming Rahul premier choice

Agence France-Presse . New Delhi

Indian Congress Party vice president Rahul Gandhi, left, talks with Congress Party president, his mother Sonia Gandhi, right, during the All India Congress Committee meeting in New Delhi on Friday. — AFP photo
 Indian Congress Party vice president Rahul Gandhi, left, talks with Congress Party president, his mother Sonia Gandhi, right, during the All India Congress Committee meeting in New Delhi on Friday. — AFP photo

Indian political matriarch Sonia Gandhi Friday refused to bow to her struggling party’s pleas to nominate her son as its prime ministerial candidate in upcoming elections, which she called a battle to save the Hindu-majority nation’s secular identity.
A day after she rejected a clamour within the Congress party to declare Rahul Gandhi as its choice for premier at polls due in May, the Italian-born Sonia told followers there was no going back on the decision.
‘We took a decision on Rahul yesterday and that decision is final,’ she said in a speech that was interrupted several times with shouts of ‘Rahul for PM!’
‘We meet today to signal that Congress is ready and prepared for the battle ahead,’ she told a party conclave in New Delhi.
‘It will be a battle between competing ideologies, conflicting views of the history and a different vision for the future... it will be a battle for India.’
After a decade in power, Congress is lagging well behind the Hindu-nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in opinion polls, with voters turned off by an economic slowdown and a string of corruption scandals.
The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is retiring after two terms, and the party had been expected to nominate Rahul, 43, as its choice for premier at the conclave.
But the prospects were dashed when Sonia Gandhi, the powerful party president and senior-most figure in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, opposed the move at a meeting on Thursday night.
Rahul remains the party’s chief election strategist.
Analysts have said the BJP’s decision to project the divisive Narendra Modi as its choice for premier could limit its room for manoeuvre in post-election coalition negotiations — a trap that Sonia Gandhi is keen to avoid.




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