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Will Rahul Gandhi resurrect a beleaguered Congress?

January 19, 2013 22:28 IST

Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt analysis what Rahul Gandhi's elevation to number 2 position in the Congress means to a struggling party and a government facing a credibility crisis.  

Janardhan Dwivedi, chairman of the Congress' media committee, on Saturday evening announced the Congress Working Committee's unanimous decision to make Rahul Gandhi a party vice president.

Rahul, the current general secretary, in charge of frontal organisations and the Youth Congress, is now just a step away from the top post.

His elevation is historic from the point of view of Congress's history and its close links with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The CWC took the decision keeping in mind the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Since time was running out, the reluctant leader was forced to make a choice while the party was forced to take the issue of Rahul Gandhi's leadership forward.

Defence Minister A K Antony moved the resolution in the CWC meet, which was seconded by all and approved by Rahul Gandhi's mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

There was never a doubt of Rahul Gandhi succeeding Sonia Gandhi as and when the Gandhi family decided, but what Ahmed Patel (Sonia Gandhi's political secretary) told rediff.com in a rare and exclusive interview has now become official.

"You should see the manner in which I was asked a question about the future role of Rahul Gandhi. It was in that context I said Rahul Gandhi's role is there, already, in the party. He is the number 2," Patel had said.

"After the Congress president, it is Rahul Gandhi's voice that is heard. He is a natural leader and is number 2. He is our leader," said Patel in the interview.

Commenting on Rahul Gandhi's future role, Patel had said, "He already has a role, he is the leader and he is already playing that role. He is the general secretary of the Congress and he is number 2 after the Congress president."

So, in effect, Rahul Gandhi's elevation was approved by his mother and was supported by the party that Motilal Nehru, his great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, his grandfather, Indira Gandhi, grand mother, Rajiv Gandhi, father and mother have nurtured.

While the charge of continuing dynastic politics for generations in a democracy will stick to the family and to the party, in realpolitik the party leaders are convinced that Rahul Gandhi's elevation was much needed to show a firm leadership at top when the nearest rival party's top rung is in a mess.

Now there remains no confusion, officially or otherwise. Due to complex challenges before the country and the lack of credibility in the United Progressive Alliance government, Rahul's dithering was seen as the weak spot for the party.

Although Congressmen are celebrating Rahul Gandhi's promotion outside the venue of the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur, Rahul's role will be challenging.

He is in an unenviable position. His elevation comes at a time when the party is struggling to find a magic wand to reach out to the middle class, struggling classes and the urban youth. Their political allies are finding them unsteady and their government's credibility is at its lowest.

Rahul himself is under attack for being confused and not resonating with people's woes. His partymen in closed door meetings told senior leaders to make the announcement and get on with the job of taking on the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Congressmen are shrewd people. They know that they only have 14 more months to save power at the Centre. It's better for Rahul to take over officially so they know which door to knock and where to send their applications.

Since April 1998, when Sonia Gandhi became president, 'Congress' meant 10 Janpath -- her residence. The party's head office at 24, Akbar Road, was merely her back office. But now a partial but crucial transformation of power has taken place within the party. The new address of power is 12, Tughlak Lane, New Delhi - 110 011.

New ideas to take on the BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be sent to the young leader's email id office@rahulgandhi.in.

So here comes the leader who has failed in many political battles in 2011-2012 but the party has granted him a prestigious post with a grand hope that in the final battle of 2014 he will save the sinking fortunes of the party.

Since the last 14 years Sonia Gandhi kept the seat warm for her son and gave the party two electoral victories. A new chapter in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and Congress's love affair with the first family has begun in Jaipur. To close the chapter of the mother's presidentship of the party on a cheerful note, the son will have to put his best to win the 2014 election.

Sheela Bhatt in Jaipur