"He is our leader and we look forward to him leading us into battle in 2014," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said on Sunday when asked about Rahul Gandhi's role in the next year's Lok Sabha elections.
He also said the party would not not be averse to new political tie-ups in some states in the next general elections.
To a query whether Congress would project Rahul Gandhi as the leader in the next polls amidst the possibility of Narendra Modi being talked about as BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Tewari told PTI said there is an institutionalised arrangement, the diarchy between the Congress President and the Prime Minister in place at this point of time that has "worked very successfully for the last nine years".
In addition, he said, there have been demands and they have been there for a while that Rahul Gandhi should be taking a far more proactive role both in the affairs of the party as well as in the affairs of the nation-state per se.
"He is our leader and we look forward to him leading us into the battle in 2014," he said.
On the question of alliances, Tewari said, "Yes we will attempt to keep our friends and allies together. I don't see a difficulty with that and wherever there is a need and ground level feedback from Congress units that some kind of alliance options needs to be explored, I don't think we will be averse to that."
Tewari said the Congress has run a coalition for past nine years "fairly well".
"If you go back to 2009 elections, in the months leading up to the poll, there were certain centrifugal tendencies which were at play in certain states where people who were part of UPA decided to go out and contest on their own. But after the election results came in, a lot of them converged back around UPA. And that is the way it has been."
To a question on Congress contending with Narendra Modi in the next elections, Tewari said that is something which the BJP has to decide and the Congress is ready to face anybody.
"Ultimately, who do we have to contend with is not a choice that we make. That is the choice which our opponents will make. We have contended with Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani earlier...we have triumphed on both occasions. So whosoever they put up against us this time, we will contend with him," he said.
On Modi's hattrick in Gujarat pitchforking him into the national scene, Tewari said, "there is no denying the fact that in spite of our best efforts in 2002, 2007 and 2012, Gujarat in the assembly context has not panned out to our expectations."
At the same time, he maintained that there was another reality that in Gujarat in both the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Congress did not do badly.
"It just goes to show that people vote differently in the state elections and differently in the national elections."