Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi on Monday said that a Muslim could also become the Prime Minister, as what mattered was the potential to accomplish the job.

Religion or community had no role in deciding the capability of a person to occupy the post, he said while interacting with students at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Mr. Gandhi was responding to a question from a student who wanted to know whether a Muslim could become the Prime Minister. “Manmohan Singh [who belongs to the minority Sikh community] is the Prime Minister because he has the capability to lead the country,” the Amethi MP said. “If there is a Muslim Prime Minister, he will be the most capable person in the country,” he added.

Mr. Gandhi exhorted the Muslim youth to join mainstream national politics as it would ensure that the problems faced by the community could be tackled in a better and constructive manner.

Mr. Gandhi, who began his two-day whistle stop tour of Uttar Pradesh from Aligarh, went straight to the grave of AMU founder Syed Ahmed Khan to offer floral tributes. He was presented with a memorandum by the Teachers’ Association of AMU, who acknowledged his role in cleansing politics.

Mr. Gandhi’s next stop was Etah, where he addressed a weaver’s conference in the town’s Aliganj tehsil before landing at Pallia in Lakhimpur Kheri district at around 4 p.m. Since he was already behind schedule, Mr. Gandhi’s interactive programme in Bahraich was cancelled, U.P. Congress sources said.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the venue of the Congress General Secretary’s press meet in Lucknow on Tuesday seemed to have settled down with the party deciding to shift the venue, but not before the Mayawati government issued a retraction that permission had not been denied to hold the meet at the headquarters of the U.P. Tourism Directorate.

Confirming the change of venue, Subodh Srivastava, chief spokesperson of the U.P. Congress Committee, said Mr. Gandhi’s press conference will now be held at the Taj Residency Hotel in Gomti Nagar.

The decision was taken after discussions with the party high command as it did not want a confrontation with the Bahujan Samaj Party government.

His press conference was earlier scheduled to be held in the auditorium of the Rajrishi Pursottam Das Tandon building, the headquarters of U.P. Tourism.

But uncertainty prevailed when tourism officials reportedly denied permission to Special Protection Group officials to take over the venue on Monday morning. There was also talk in the Pradesh Congress headquarters that Mr. Gandhi’s press meet might not be held.

The State government went on the back foot when the news about the reported denial of permission was aired by news channels.

At a hurriedly convened press conference here on Monday, Additional Cabinet Secretary of the State government Vijay Shankar Pandey denied that the allotment of the press conference in the Tourism Department auditorium had been cancelled. Nor had any cancellation order been issued, Mr. Pandey added.