Wo Chahte Hain Jaage Na Koiiiii, Ye Raat Ye Andhakar Chale Har Koi Bhatakta Rahe Yunhi, Aur Desh Yunhi Lachar Chale
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Sonia, Rahul want PM to be replaced soon
Now that the PM has made it clear that he would like to complete his term, ‘a silent campaign has been launched to discredit him’.
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT NEW DELHI | 3rd Jun
rs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have decided that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has become an electoral liability and needs to be replaced. It is a view that has been building up since autumn last year, but the continuing attrition of corruption charges has convinced them that they need to act soon or the Congress will suffer virtually irreparable losses in the next elections.
Their first choice as replacement, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, has hurt his chances by his clumsy handling of the age controversy of the previous Chief of Army Staff, General V.K. Singh. There is strong support for Home Minister P. Chidambaram as the next PM, since he is trusted by both generations of the current ruling dynasty. Chidambaram has been seen as a "good soldier", willing to walk the extra mile to protect the interests of the Congress high command. Sources say that the BJP-led onslaught on Chidambaram has made the Home Minister "even more of a favourite with Madam and Rahulji", as both of them "regard the saffronites as a danger to the unity and progress of India". Chidambaram's major drawback is that he might not get the support of the allies, because of corruption charges, and would motivate a regional force like J. Jayalalithaa to mobilise the outer ring of fence-sitters, like Mulayam Singh Yadav and her friend Naveen Patnaik, against the Centre. Pranab Mukherjee, by comparison, is seen as a far more astute politician who will not allow his government to collapse. Pragmatic considerations may push Pranab to the front.
Key operatives in the Congress claim that since September 2011, "hints have been passed on to Manmohan Singh that he should gracefully offer to quit", on grounds of health and also to "give his successor a chance to find his feet before the 2014 elections". Although there were internal party discussions on the option of kicking the PM upstairs by making him President of India, there is fear that "he is so unpopular that he would lose to an Opposition candidate".
Now that the PM has made it clear to the party that he would like to complete his present term in office, "a silent campaign has been launched in the media to discredit him even more than is the case now" in the hope that this would wear down his resistance.
A top strategist of the ruling party, who has had multiple interactions with the PM, says that "Manmohan is very sensitive to criticism in the media, and after a time, will decide there is no point in being daily subjected to barbs". Advisors to Rahul Gandhi are known to believe that "the removal of the PM can take away a lot of the anti-incumbency sentiment" within the electorate, especially if "there is also a wholesale cleansing of the Union Cabinet".
One worry is that if Dr Singh feels that he does not have sufficient time, he might push through, quickly, a series of decisions that Mrs Gandhi has been resisting. This could include a reduction in subsidies and liberalisation in FDI and industrial policy.