The debate on the efficacy of the twin centres of authority model — Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi as Congress president — took a fresh turn on Tuesday when Janardan Dwivedi officially debunked fellow general secretary Digvijay Singh’s recent comment that the model had failed.
“The relationship which exists between the Congress president and the Prime Minister is unique and their camaraderie cannot be replaced easily,” Mr. Dwivedi stressed, adding, “(it is) something which has never been seen before, and perhaps this should be the ideal model for the future also.”
When Mr. Singh publicly uttered what most Congressmen have been privately saying, as the Manmohan Singh-led regime enters its tenth year, it was interpreted as a snub to a growing array of prime ministerial aspirants — all those who aspired to be Rahul Gandhi’s Manmohan. Mr. Gandhi had never said, Mr Singh also stressed, that he did not wish to be Prime Minister, only that he wanted to focus on strengthening the party organisation for the moment.
Party sources said that while Mr. Singh was expressing the views of a significant section of Congressmen — that Dr. Singh’s helming of the government had failed them — Mr. Dwivedi’s strong and unequivocal endorsement of the twin centres of power experiment was the “official” line. “We still have one more year to go and we cannot afford publicly to undermine our Prime Minister,” said a Congress functionary.
Indeed, an answer that the Prime Minister gave journalists on March 29, on board a special flight, as he journeyed back from the BRICS conference in Durban, was given a fresh spin on Tuesday. When Dr. Singh dismissed as hypothetical a question whether he would accept a third term if the UPA was in a position to form the government in 2014, saying, “We will cross that bridge when we reach there,” it was interpreted in the media as meaning that he wished to be PM for a third term. The Congress did nothing to correct that impression, but now senior party sources are saying Dr Singh responded correctly: “That was the right answer — anything else would have created uncertainty, something the government cannot afford in the run-up to the polls.”
Within the party, especially among the younger set, there is now a growing feeling that if the Congress emerges as the single largest party again — even if that is 150-160 — and forms the government for a third time at the head of a UPA coalition, Mr. Gandhi must be pushed into taking charge.