External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday that Manmohan Singh was "quite justifiably" the Congress prime ministerial candidate and there can be no other claimant to the post.
"As already announced, quite justifiably, Mr Singh is the party's prime ministerial candidate and our party's decision is that at this time there can be no other claimant to the post of Prime Minister," Mukherjee told a Bengali TVs phone-in programme on Monday night where his party's new ally Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was also present.
"This is so because he (Manmohan) has run the country efficiently for the past five years and enhanced the country's prestige in the comity of nations," he added. "And, with due respect and humility to Opposition parties, I want to state here, that there is no leader who can match him and stake claim for the post of the Prime Minister," he said in an obvious reference to BJP leader L K Advani's barbs about Singh being a weak PM.
"More so, in the present global economic meltdown, only an economist of Manmohan Singh's stature is fit to be the Prime Minister and lead the nation of 112 crore people," he said when a questioner said that the people of Bengal would like to see him as prime minister and Banerjee as chief minister of the state.
He said that the alliance forged with the Trinamool Congress for the Lok Sabha election in Bengal to fight the ruling Left Front would be extended to the assembly elections in the state due in 2011. "I am confident that the alliance will win the poll and Mamata will become the chief minister," he said.
"Even in 2001, I had said Mamata is the future chief minister of the state and I am repeating it now. We will fight the assembly elections together and I do hope that we will get a majority and Mamata will take the responsibility of managing the affairs of the state," Mukherjee, the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief said.
Elaborating on the alliance, Mukherjee said, "the people's wish and desire that non-left votes are not divided in Bengal brought us together." Countering Communist Party of India-Marxist's allegation, he said "This is not an unprincipled alliance. It has been formed on the basis of principles and to fulfill the spontaneous wish of the people, who are disenchanted with the 32 years of the Left Front rule. The way in which we are getting a response from the people is a reflection that it is a people's alliance".