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PMO scotches talk of Manmohan quitting after press meet date creates a buzz

New Delhi, Dec 31(PTI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has no intention of stepping down ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, his office said Tuesday, rejecting speculation in this regard.

The speculation was triggered by the Prime Minister's decision to hold a rare press conference here on January 3, which will be only the third of his current tenure.

“The Prime Minister will complete his tenure,” the PMO said, rubbishing a report of his stepping down before the polls.

A media report had speculated that Singh may step down ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to make way for Rahul Gandhi.

There has been a growing clamour within the Congress party to name Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate, particularly after the reverses suffered by the party in the state assembly polls.

On Monday, senior leader and Finance Minister P ChidambaramI said Congress should project its Prime Ministerial candidate for the general elections next year.

“...in my view, the party (Congress) should project a person as the leader of the party who will become prime minister if the party forms the government. That is my view, but it is for the party to decide.”

Shedding his reticence in recent days, Rahul Gandhi has been pro-active and has spoken on a number of issues such as Lokpal Bill and the Adarsh Housing scam in Mumbai, two issues on which he has made decisive interventions.

The Prime Minister has more than once said that Rahul should lead the party and that he was willing to work under the Congress vice president.

“I have always maintained that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the PM post after 2014 elections. I will be happy to work in the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi,” he had told reporters on his way back from the G-20 Summit in Russia in September.

During the press meet, the Prime Minister is likely to dispel the impression about policy paralysis and reply to critics of his government.

The Prime Minister is also likely to release a report highlighting the achievements of 10 years of UPA rule.

In his second term in office, which began in May 2009, Singh has separately met five Editors and a group of TV Editors.

He has held two full-fledged press conferences during his 10-year tenure.

The UPA government has been facing mounting criticism on account of “policy paralysis”, corruption and price rise and some other issues.

Congress has suffered a setback after the drubbing in recent Assembly elections to Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Singh is expected to field questions on all these issues at the press meet.