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, said when questioned who the leader of the Congress-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance would be after the polls.
"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 and Kashmir.
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.