Rahul to play larger role in Congress from September
The chorus for Rahul Gandhi playing a greater role in the Congress grew louder on Monday with party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh demanding that he be given "decisive" responsibility and a senior leader making a strong pitch for projecting him as the prime ministerial candidate in the next polls.
"Finally the time has come for him to assume a larger role...He had been confining himself to Youth Congress and the student wing of the party. He should come in the mainstream...This is the demand of all Congressmen. We all want that he works proactively," Singh said.
While Singh sought a "decisive" role for Rahul, the senior leader, who declined to be identified, said that projection of a PM candidate in the next polls scheduled in 2014, was "imperative in view of the changing times".
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Image: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had a brief interaction with the media at 10, Janpath in New Delhi
'Had Rahul imposed himself on party it wouldn't be good'
Singh speaking separately said that Gandhi, who has so far restricted his role to the affairs of Youth Congress and National Students' Union Of India, should play larger role from September, once the presidential elections are over.
The All India Congress Committee general secretary, who downplayed contentions of his proximity to Gandhi, said, "Had Rahul imposed himself
on the party in the very beginning, it would not have been good. Now when there is demand he should come". He was asked why the clamour for Rahul was growing now.
His comments come just days after Law Minister Salman Khurshid was quoted by a newspaper as having said that the party had seen just cameos of Rahul Gandhi's thoughts and ideas, and that the party was waiting for him to weave these into a grand announcement -- remarks that the minister subsequently said were misinterpreted.
Singh, however, refused to clarify what he meant by larger role for Gandhi amid speculation that Gandhi could become party's vice-president.
Image: Rahul interacts with the public in New Delhi
Will Rahul take Pranab's place?
After Pranab Mukherjee's exit from the all-powerful Congress core group, the young leader could also be formally brought in there.
"Larger role does not mean the [residentship in any party," Singh said, adding that the party will fight the next Lok Sabha elections under Sonia Gandhi's leadership.
However, when asked whether the party could project its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Singh pointed out that the party had not projected any face in 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
The AICC has already made it clear that Manmohan Singh would continue to be prime minister till 2014. "The Congress party does not project anyone either as PM or CM," he said.
Another party leader speaking separately, however, said that he was the view that the party should project its prime ministerial face before the next Lok Sabha elections keeping in mind current political situation.
While the leader did not elaborate the reasons for projection of a PM candidate, the rationale could be to exploit the differences in the Bharatiya Janata Party, leading the opposition National Democratic Alliance, on the leadership issue.
Image: Rahul during a rally in Uttar Pradesh
'No such thing as Rahul factor'
Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday had a meeting with four senior leaders Ahmed Patel, Janardan Dwivedi, Singh and Jairam Ramesh. However, there was no immediate word whether they met Gandhi collectively or separately and what transpired in the meeting.
Singh, however, refused to specify what role he feels Gandhi should play and merely reiterated that Gandhi "should play a larger role into the mainstream of the Congress party".
Asked whether it was opportune for Gandhi to don a larger role, Singh said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Only then leadership emerges. Only a person who swims against the current is called a leader by the people."
The AICC general secretary dismissed contentions that Rahul factor failed to work in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Assembly elections saying it is the regional leadership which takes key decisions including for ticket distribution in the Assembly elections.
"There is no such thing as Rahul factor. There is PCC, regional leadership. They have to act. These things are decided by state leadership. They decide whom to give tickets not Rahul," Singh said.
Gandhi has been asked many times by the PM to join the government, but he has so far declined it.
Rahul to become acting president of Cong?
Asked whether Gandhi should become acting president of the party, Singh said it was for Gandhi to decide adding that the "Congressmen definitely want to see him play a more active role in the mainstream in the party."
Singh caveated his response with the remark that it was "not the party view" and he was airing his personal views reflecting some sort of a general feeling that is in the party.
"This is what I have said based on assumption. I have not met him after I said it," he said when asked whether he met Gandhi after making the statement on Sunday about the larger role for Gandhi.
"Rahul's contribution to NSUI and Youth Congress have been great...I am sure he will be able to play a more active role in future," Singh said. He said that when one joins politics, defeat and victory are part of the political process. He also downplayed the negative publicity surrounding the performance of UPA 2 government.
"Every government in last two years of its five years faces anti-incumbency. This is part of the process.... Certainly we are going to fight to form the next government," Singh said.
"He will campaign in the whole country. Why Gujarat only," was his response, when asked whether Gandhi will campaign for the party during upcoming Gujarat elections.