I want to put an end to all speculations about prime ministership. There is no vacancy for the post.

That was Congress loudmouth Jayanthi Natarajan conveying publicly what her madam must have conveyed privately to Arjun Singh to pre-emptively deflate the Rahul Gandhi trial balloon.

But here is the catch.

There maybe no vacancy for the PM’s post, but what about the vacancy in PM’s Leadership ?

The wily Pranab Mukherjee who has long waited in the wings hinted as much

There is nothing wrong in projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate as he has all the qualities. People always go for young leaders. That is the universal truth

So Jayanti Natarajan can sping away Manmohan Singh’s dysfunctional governance any which way she wants but as we said yesterday this trial balloon cannot hide Sonia Gandhi’s Manmohan problem.

So how will this play out ?

Scenario #1 – Manmohan sees the writing on the wall and resigns

This is a low probability scenario. Not because Manmohan wants to cling on but because Sonia is just not ready to let go of him and the loyal gentleman that he is, he will soldier on even if at the cost of his self-respect.

Scenario #2 – Manmohan continues as PM through next elections 

Again slim chance of this as it would just simply not motivate the cadre enough for the Congress to even have a fighting chance in the next elections. Sonia Gandhi could still put her foot down and get the allies and the geriatric ward to back her on this, but it would be incredibly stupid of her and certain political disaster.

Scenario #3 – Declare Rahul’s candidature while he remains outside the government

For reasons described in yesterday’s post and today’s events, this one is a non-starter for the moment atleast.

So where does that leaves us ?

If one looks back at Sonia Gandhi’s political record to date, it is clear that her finest moments are those when she appropriates the moral high ground while painting herself the victim. The one time she did not play herself the victim and attempted to lead from the front she ended up with a cropper with Mulayam Singh Yadav refusing to support her (refer his secret meeting with the BJP and Advani)

So the only way out for Sonia Gandhi from her Manmohan problem is an opportunity that will allow her the moral high ground and it can all be spun away as an all round act of sacrifice for the sake of the nation.

So how do we produce such an opportunity ?

Offstumped is predicting that sometime after the Karnataka Assembly polls and before the United States goes to polls to elect its next President, the Congress will compel the Left to withdraw support over the Indo-US Nuclear Deal.

Taking things to the brink on the Nuclear makes absolute sense for the Congress. It paints the Congress the victim and Messrs Karat and Yechury as the villains. It also allows Manmohan to go down looking like a hero under the aura of sacrifice for national interest. It also allows gives Sonia and Rahul the perfect opportunity to appropriate the moral high ground and lead the campaign charge in defence of Manmohan Singh’s act of statesmanship.

Offstumped Bottomline: While the Rahul Gandhi trial balloon may appear to be deflated, it is merely a temporary pause. Sonia Gandhi needs an opportunity to appropriate the moral high ground and solve her Manmohan problem. Pushing the left to withdraw support on the Indo-US Nuclear deal is that perfect opportunity.

Offstumped is written by Yossarin from the Indian National Interest 

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