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Rahul sounds the poll bugle; Congressmen hope he doesn't disappear

January 18, 2014 04:09 IST

Rahul Gandhi probably delivered one of the best speeches of his political career at the AICC meeting, where he was relaxed, conversational at times and philosophical at others.

Humour was laced with attacks upon the opposition and his body language was of a young man in command of his destination.

But the question being asked was whether he would continue to be serious or once again disappear as he has done in the past.

Renu Mittal reports

Amid day-long chants of Rahul for PM, Congress president Sonia Gandhi put a final stamp of leadership on her son with the AICC session focusing on him as the man who will lead the party into the 2014 elections.

And Rahul too rose to the occasion, delivering to the assembled delegates a long speech that was full of gusto, passion and probably spoken from the heart.

With the AICC meeting being held in the backdrop of the defeat in the recent assembly election and with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections just months away, the Congress leadership sought to infuse life and spirit into the demoralised workers.

There were apprehensions that there may be a revolt in the party and that is why the session was called along with the fact that Sonia wanted to showcase Rahul as the party’s natural leader in the days ahead.

Since the morning itself, assembled workers chanted Rahul’s name but a firm and categorical Sonia made it clear that her decision was “final” and that he would not be named the party’s PM candidate.

The resolution passed by the AICC, however, made it official that Rahul would lead the party into the polls.

With the ground work having been done, speaker after speaker praised Sonia and Rahul. With the mood in the party tentative and uncertain, the leadership did not take the risk of calling the common Congress AICC members to speak from the podium, but instead relied on those who held posts and positions.

Rahul probably delivered one of the best speeches of his political career, where he was relaxed, conversational at times and philosophical at others, humour was laced with attack against the opposition and his body language was of a young man in command of his destination.

He said they were warriors who would go into the 2014 electoral battle and come back victorious. He spent time and energy wooing the angry party workers who have felt neglected, isolated and unclaimed for the last 10 years of UPA rule.

The intention was, according to a senior leader, to bring them back from the edge and send the message that the party and its leaders cares about the workers.

But an AICC delegate later commented that Rahul had failed to lead from the front by refusing to take responsibility by being named the PM candidate and said that he would need to show he means what he says since in the last one year he has been unable to deliver on his promises.

But Rahul has sounded the poll bugle. He spoke on corruption and price rise -- the two issues which have been identified as responsible for the party’s defeat.

In an admission that the Congress systems have been flawed and that they need to be changed, Rahul has said they will choose 15 constituencies where the workers will decide who would be the candidate and if that works, it would be further expanded.

Money dealings and wrong selection of candidates is a problem the Congress has been facing and the leadership has been unable to handle it.

Rahul also laid out the agenda for the next 5 years by saying that he would work on bringing 70 crore people into the middle class as they are between the poverty line and the middle class.

Faced with a receptive audience, Rahul delivered at a time when the party needed his leadership. But the question being asked was whether he would continue to be serious or once again disappear as he has done in the past.

For Rahul, the critical factor is to establish his credibility at a time when the Congress is looking to win a third term in office, though for the moment the task looks more than difficult.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi