Indian media: Congress' 'balancing act' on Rahul Gandhi's future

Rahul Gandhi will lead the ruling Congress party's campaign in the general elections. Rahul Gandhi will lead the ruling Congress party's campaign in the general elections.

Media in India feel the Congress party has played it safe by not naming Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming general elections.

The party on Thursday said Mr Gandhi would be the election campaign chief for the polls.

But it stopped short of saying he would be its candidate for prime minister, as many had been expecting.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi told senior leaders that there is no tradition of the party anointing a PM candidate before the elections, party leader Janardan Dwivedi said.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already announced Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its candidate for PM.

Newspapers believe the Congress' decision is a "fine balancing act" meant to protect Mr Gandhi from the opposition's "tirade" as well as help the party's prospects in the general elections with respect to securing possible allies.

"The Congress has not fallen into the trap of making elections a personality clash between Mr Gandhi and Mr Modi. At the same time, the party has made it clear that Mr Gandhi is the leader of the future," says the Hindustan Times notes.

The Economic Times says "the Congress has stuck to tradition and played it safe by not naming Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate".

Polls show the Congress party doing badly amid a slowing economy and a string of damaging corruption scandals. And many believe the Congress party's poor approval ratings and recent defeats in four key state elections may have prevented Mr Gandhi elevation as a PM candidate.

"The decision of the Congress Working Committee led by party chief Sonia Gandhi reflects the sentiment of the Congress old guard that had advised her against nominating Rahul for PM and thereby walking into the BJP trap," says The Tribune.

'Oldest' tiger

In health news, India's maternal mortality rate (MMR) has dropped considerably, showing it is on track to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals for 2015, reports The Asian Age.

India's MMR for 2010-12 stands at 178 deaths per 100,000 births against the earlier figure of 212 deaths between 2007 and 2009, it adds.

Health Ministry official Anuradha Gupta says the results can be attributed to better access to health information and services and hopes there will be a further "drastic drop" in the MMR with the government's initiatives, the paper says.

Moving on to international news, India and South Korea have agreed to strengthen cooperation in several areas including cyber security, space, defence and commerce, reports The Indian Express.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly told visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday that the work on the long-delayed Posco steel plant in the eastern state of Orissa will start in the coming weeks following environment clearances.

Also, India has decided to extend tourist visa-on-arrival facility for South Koreans.

Elsewhere, a group of 22 Afghan nationals is visiting Nalanda and Muzaffarpur districts in the eastern state of Bihar to study farming techniques, reports the Zee News website.

The team, which includes women, will learn techniques to cultivate fruits, cash crops and honey production among other processes, the website quotes Bihar's Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh as saying.

And finally, Guddu, India's oldest tiger, has died in a zoo in the northern city of Kanpur, reports The Times of India.

Guddu, 26, died of a cardiac arrest on Wednesday night before zoo officials could seek an entry for him in the Guinness Book of World Records, it says.

While the average life span of a tiger varies between 14 and 16 years, Guddu lived for over 26 years, Kanpur zoo director K Thomas said, the paper adds.

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