There is a shift in the Congress regarding Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, says Renu Mittal.
The younger Gandhi will lead the Congress campaign in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and by inference it is implied that he will be the party's face and candidate for the post of the prime minister if the United Progressive Alliance can bring together the numbers to form the government at the Centre.
According to party spokesman PC Chacko, Sonia as the Congress president will be the supreme leader of the party. There is no clarity on what exactly this statement means except that Rahul will have Sonia's full backing and she may become the 'Queen Mother' to the young Rahul.
There is a growing feeling in the Congress that if it can get its act together and focus on bringing in some big time social legislation for the poor and weaker sections as well as bring down prices of essential commodities, the Congress can make a serious bid to return to power after the next general elections and that is why there is an attempt to project Rahul and give him the credit for the victory.
The United States, corporates and others look to be backing the Congress for a third term and this has emboldened the party to take steps to spruce up its image and look like they are a serious party of governance.
The victory in the two houses and the passing of the FDI in multi-brand retail has also boosted the confidence of the party, say senior leaders.
The party had already indicated that Rahul will lead the campaign when he was appointed to head the co-ordination committee which would oversee the preparations for the 2014 elections along with three sub committees which includes alliances, publicity and media and the actual logistical preparations for the elections.
But in actual words, this is the first time that the Congress has said that Rahul will lead the campaign though so far the formulation had been that Sonia as the party president would lead the campaign for the 2014 poll.
The announcement comes a day after Sonia's 66th birthday and indicates that she is prepared to step down in favour of Rahul in the months ahead or maybe even after the Lok Sabha elections.
Sources in the Congress say that by implication it also implies that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should prepare to call it a day but how the modalities of that will work out still remains unclear since the prime minister on more than one occasion has made it amply clear that he has no intention of stepping down and that a great deal of his business still remains unfinished.
The Congress would also like to showcase that the smooth transition of power in the party is a far cry from the succession and leadership battle being waged in the Bharatiya Janata Party which is struggling to keep its house in order as the tussle for power between the old guard in the BJP is pitted against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which is trying to control the BJP through its nominees.
It is still unclear what bigger role Rahul would be given in the days and weeks ahead. It is likely that he may no longer be in charge of just the youth congress and the National Students Union of India but be more actively involved in taking day to day decisions on organisational matters, since many decisions regarding key appointments in numerous states have been put on hold for some time by the Congress president.
Senior leaders have suggested that part of the reason is that Rahul is still in the process of sifting through names, and that he would also have a say in key appointments.