New Delhi: The ruling Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday stunned his party by saying he is not interested in becoming the prime minister.
“Asking me whether you want to be prime minister is a wrong question,” Rahul, 42, said.
He said his top priority is to work for the party and strengthen it and added that he believes in long-term politics rather than hankering for power.
Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as the Congress party vice-president in January, which officially gave him the number two status behind his mother Sonia Gandhi in the party hierarchy, was seen as a step towards naming him the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for the 2014 general elections.
Political circles have been excited at the prospect of a Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi clash for the top post next year. Incumbent Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is likely to be named by the Bharatiya Janata Party as its prime ministerial candidate.
Rahul termed Mahatma Gandhi as his political guru and said chasing power was not his goal.
The Gandhi-Nehru family has so far given the country three prime ministers including his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi. His mother Sonia Gandhi had stunned the nation by deciding against becoming the prime minister in 2004 after having been elected as leader of the Congress parliamentary party and instead nominated close aide Manmohan Singh as the country’s prime minister.
Rahul had recently asked the party leaders to desist from Rahul-for-prime minister chants.
Rahul Gandhi said that the party was his top priority and was preparing for a long haul. In that direction he has said that doors would be closed for ever on any leader who leaves the party and contests elections against the official nominee. Often, such rebels, if elected, are readmitted to the party particularly when their supports are needed to form the government.
“Today I see how MPs feel without power and it is the same story in all the parties, be it Congress or BJP. I want to empower the 720-odd MPs in parliament. I want to give voice to the middle tier, empower the middle-level leaders,” Rahul said, adding that he wants to end the high command culture in the Congress party started in the 1970s by his grandmother Indira Gandhi.
“She [Indira Gandhi] was under severe assault… I knew her and if I would have been in her place, I would have also done likewise,” he said in defence of his grandmother who was accused of centralising power.
Rahul Gandhi, however, refused to answer who would be the Congress party’s prime ministerial candidate if the party is voted to power for the third consecutive term next year.
It is widely believed that the incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who would complete nine years in post in May this year, would opt out due to his advancing age.