Clamour grows for Rahul as PM candidate

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 19, 2013 09:11 hrs

Jaipur: Over 130 Youth Congress and NSUI leaders at the Congress' strategy session here Saturday demanded a bigger role for the party's de facto number two Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to lead the party in the 2014 general elections.

Noting that Rahul was heading the party's poll coordination panel, party MP from Lakshadweep, Hamdulla Saeed, told IANS: "We want to see him (Rahul) lead in all spheres."

Asked, however, whether he would like Rahul Gandhi to be seen as the party's prime ministerial candidate, Saeed said that was a matter the elected MPs and party chief Sonia Gandhi would decide.

Pawan Godara, who heads the Youth Congress in Rajasthan, and is a delegate at the party's chintan shivir or introspection camp, said young leaders wanted Rahul to lead the party in the next general elections.

"Rahul Gandhi has given people like me with no political background an opportunity. He should play a bigger role now, and the seniors should guide us," Godara said.

Rahul shared the stage Friday with his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior Congress leaders.

He will address the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session Jan 20.

It is also because of the 42-year-old Gandhi that the conclave at Jaipur has seen such a large contingent from the Youth Congress and the party's student wing, National Students' Union of India.

'Rahul Gandhi is our leader irrespective of formal name of position': Singhvi

Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Saturday said Rahul Gandhi is the party's leader irrespective of the formal name of position.

Singhvi said there been a demand for Rahul Gandhi for some time now.

" I think on the one hand it's unfair to harass him and to pressurise him every time, but on the other hand there is a huge amount of feeling at the ground level that he should take over. As we have said earlier, the ultimate decision must be his and I think we have to leave it to that, but certainly already irrespective of formal name of position he is our leader," said Singhvi.

"And I have no doubt that not only in the elections of 2014 but in every which way he is going to be showing us the path," he added.

To a poser on Congress President Sonia Gandhi's speech made at the 'Chintan Shivir' in Jaipur yesterday where she mentioned on the need to strike a balance between the allies and policies, Singhvi said: "She neither said all about allies and she neither said nothing about allies. She has said something, which is part of a basic Congress approach. We have to build alliances, we have to have bridges."

"At the same time, we have to be able to perfect the 'Ekla Chalo' principle where necessary rather more important to strengthen the party where necessary. I think there is no contradiction between the two and I think fine virtuous balance is what she was talking about," he added.

Amid demands from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), one of the key allies of the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre, to rollback the diesel price hike, the Congress President yesterday said that the party needed to strike a balance between its allies and its policies.

"There is increased competition and inroads have been made in our traditional strongholds. We have to strike a fine balance between respecting alliances and ensuring rejuvenation of the party," she told the Congressmen.

The Congress top brass, which is meeting in Jaipur during the two day 'Chintan Shivir' is expected to formulate its strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The ruling party at the Centre will also discuss the current political, socio-economic and global challenges.

Time for Gen Next in Congress, Rahul to take charge

If there is one issue that has been smartly orchestrated and carefully synchronized at the Congress Party's 'Chintan Shivir', it is the growing demand for declaring Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of the party before 2014 polls.

Congress think tank members and senior functionaries like Ahmad Patel, Janardhan Dwivedi, Motilal Vohra, Digvijay Singh, Raj Babbar and Avtar Singh Badana along with other members of the party made the demand for projecting Rahul as PM at the strategy meet attended by significantly over 150 members of the Youth Congress and NSUI delegates.

For the record, Rahul Gandhi heads the party's coordination panel for the 2014 general elections. Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh, who works closely with him, has been demanding that the Nehru-Gandhi family scion should assume a bigger role and should not be forced into anything.

The 42-year-old MP from Amethi, who has been involved with key decisions in the past, including cabinet formation, has ensured that one-third of the 350 delegates at the 'Chintan Shivir' (brainstorming session) are from the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India, the two frontal organizations he heads.

Senior Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi is of the view that "Mr. Gandhi is already No.2 in the party hierarchy for all practical purposes. He can formally take the charge any time."

The Congress spokesperson has also been pitching for a bigger role for the young Gandhi as he feels that any more delay in 'this transition process would not be in the best interest of the party'.

What has intrigued many leaders in the party is Rahul Gandhi's reluctance to announce his decision in the matter.

He had politely refused the offer of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to be a part of his cabinet because he knows that the UPA II had already come under a hail of criticisms on many grounds and if he joins his cabinet, then he would also be seen as a party to his policies and priorities which may not be to his likings.

A closer look at the state of affairs within the Congress party point towards the following: It is quite unlikely that Congress President Sonia Gandhi would like to appoint her son as the working President because her core-team would perhaps not like the change as "the status quo ante syndrome" suits them more than it suits the party. In any case, Sonia Gandhi has been elected president of the party till 2015 and she still seems to be hale and hearty, having absolute command over the party machinery. Obviously, she would not like to create a parallel power centre within the party undermining her own authority in anyway.

Secondly, the Congress leadership is aware that 80-year-old Dr. Singh would not be projected again in 2014 as PM for obvious reasons. In that case, Rahul Gandhi as the young face of the party could be the best bet. However, the biggest question remains that will the Gandhi scion be able to face the Gujarat Chief Minister as his rival in the 2104 polls if the BJP decides to project Narendra Modi as its mascot?

The Congress party appears to have got into a bind now as it has to give some worthwhile responsibility to young turks in the party whose leadership has to be vested in the hands of Rahul Gandhi. The speech of Congress President on January 18 clearly gave sufficient hints to the fact that Rahul has to take a call and put his foot down firmly if the party wants to come back to power again in 2014.

But then, there would be a few other aspects which need to be put in a clear perspective and chain of command: One of the possibilities could be that Rahul Gandhi being made the General Secretary in charge of the entire organization.

Secondly, he may be entrusted with the responsibility of revamping the whole AICC and put his men in command at important positions with a few to tackle assembly polls in at least eight states in 2013. This team may be asked to re-draft and refresh its strategy and improve upon the lessons having learnt in earlier assembly polls in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Moreover, the party may give Rahul Gandhi free hand in preparing for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, as he had already drafted a 54-member team and sent them to various parts of the country with the responsibility to access the winnability of various party nominees, aspirants. It's another matter that at least 23 out of these 54 members had not got idea of the topography and local issues in those respective parliamentary segments.

While the intention may have been good, but the actual problem lies in understanding the fact that someone from Bihar sent to Kerala for a week on such an important assignment would not be able to do justice to the task assigned. It is here that the Team Rahul needs constant guidance of the seniors.

At the end, the Congress leadership may be tempted to give Rahul Gandhi a bigger role, but only history would be able to record how would he perform in his "new role". 

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