Under Pressure for quite some time from his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi [ Images ], as well as the rank and file and leaders of the party, Rahul has apparently given the go ahead and agreed to join the Manmohan Singh [ Images ] government as a minister. It is expected that he would become a cabinet minister and may even take oath before the monsoon session of Parliament.
One of the portfolios being discussed is rural development and panchayati raj which has a huge budget of Rs 76,000 crore, second to only the defence ministry. It is a portfolio which interests Rahul and where he would be able to stay in touch with the grassroots and keep contact with the aam admi (common man).
Senior Rajasthan [ Images ] Minister C P Joshi was looking after the two portfolios, and currently it is Jairam Ramesh [ Images ] who is the minister for rural development. There is a strong buzz that Ramesh is being shifted to power portfolio, while Power Minister Sushil Kumar [ Images ] Shinde is likely to be the leader of the Lok Sabha, and in addition, may be given the home portfolio in the event that Home Minister P Chidambaram [ Images ] is shifted to finance.
It is unlikely that the PM would keep the additional burden of finance, keeping in mind his age and health. It is obvious that the Congress leadership is keen that the finance ministry should be headed by a minister of Sonia's choice.
Reacting to continued speculation on whether he would be taking a more proactive role in the government and the party, Rahul said on Thursday that he was ready for a bigger role, but said that his two bosses -- Sonia and Manmohan Singh -- would decide the timing.
He said that the decision has been taken. On Wednesday, Sonia had said that it was up to Rahul to decide what role he would take for himself.
The party's media department chairman Janardhan Dwivedi later issued a statement saying, "We will be very happy if Rahul takes on some more responsibility. It will be a welcome step. But it will be up to him to decide."
The media chairman appears to be clearly hinting that Rahul will be either in the government or in the party, but there are others who say that Rahul could keep one foot in the party and the other in the government, just as all the other Gandhis have done before him except Sonia.
A senior leader said that it would be easier for him to stay in touch with the people as a party man, though it is now clear that he would shed the responsibility of the National Students Union of India [ Images ] and the Youth congress.
It is interesting that just some days ago; senior All India Congress Committee functionaries had said they would put pressure on the leadership to project the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election in today's changed political scenario.
In that context, Rahul's projection as the face of the United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] and the next government would become easier, if he is already in the government, said a senior leader.
A new and fresh face coupled with big ticket social programmes and a package for the poor and the marginalised could go a long way in minimising UPA-II's image, said a party strategist, who added that the Congress would not give up without a fight.
Using the positive atmosphere and the huge support which UPA's Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee [ Images ] has received from political parties, the Congress' strategy is to keep up the momentum, and use it to carry forward its pro-poor agenda and in the process, project Rahul as the leader who would spearhead these social sector programmes in the government.
The Congress has to face elections in 13 state assemblies before the general elections in 2014. These would be a litmus test for the leadership, said a senior AICC functionary and a semi final before the final.
It is expected that whatever changes are needed in the party and the government as well as state governments and Pradesh Congress Committes would be made soon before the party moves into election mode.