New Delhi: The Congress
has not projected any chief minister in the hotly contested Uttar
Pradesh elections that began Wednesday and "youth icon" Rahul
Gandhi is not a candidate, says a senior leader.
"Our focus is on the campaign now. When it comes to selecting a
legislature party leader, we will cross the bridge when we come to
it," Mohan Prakash, chief of the state's election screening
committee, told IANS when questioned who the leader of the
Congress-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance would be after the
"Rahulji has been leading our campaign. The youth icon has given
new substance and style to our campaign. But he is not a candidate
or an aspirant for the chief minister post," Prakash said.
"His (Rahul's) vision for a resurgent and progressive Uttar
Pradesh has energised the Congress campaign," said Prakash, who is
also a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee and
in-charge of the crucial states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jammu
Prakash, 61, said confidently that the lack of a chief ministerial
candidate would not affect the Congress' prospects in the state
where it has not been in power since 1989.
The Congress usually does not announce its chief minister's
candidate in advance, he said.
Some surveys predicted that the Congress would improve its tally
of 22 seats in the 403-member assembly after the Feb 8-March 3
elections it is fighting in alliance with Ajit Singh's RLD.
This has led to intense speculation on who would lead the party in
the state if it manages to get a decisive role in the post-poll
scenario and government formation.
Speculation about Gandhi's role in Uttar Pradesh had arisen
earlier too, when he launched the poll campaign at the Nehru
family citadel, Phulpur, Nov 14 last year.
"Sometimes, I think I should come to Lucknow to fight for you
myself," he said at Phulpur.
On Monday, too, he said at a press conference in Varanasi that he
had "no obsession" with being prime minister, but did have
"another obsession" - Uttar Pradesh.
Rajasthan-born Prakash, who began his activism as youth leader of
the JP movement had spent much of his career in the opposition
parties - Janata Party, Lok Dal and Janata Dal-United - before
joining the Congress.
He, along with Digvijay Singh, had attended the final negotiation
between party chief Sonia Gandhi and Ajit Singh in December last,
sealing the Congress-RLD alliance.