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Rahul's appointment takes PM by surprise

January 20, 2013 19:28 IST
The Rahul frenzy overwhelmed the Congress's Chintan Shivir on Sunday. Renu Mittal reports from Jaipur.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi overshadowed both his mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and the party's Chintan Shivir convention in Jaipur on Sunday.

The day was spent singing Rahul's praises, establishing him as the new Power Player in the Congress party.

While the reins of power have not formally been handed over to Rahul, it is clear he is the new boss of the Congress party.

Alert Congressmen, well versed in the language of power, sensed which way the wind was blowing. Most leaders praised Sonia Gandhi for the role she has played these last 14 years -- in uniting a divided party and bringing it to power.

Then speaker after speaker hailed Rahul as the harbinger of the new energy called Youth Power, a theme which was highlighted all day.

Rahul's selection as party vice-president kicked off huge enthusiasm at the Birla auditorium in Jaipur with applause, shouts and cries of 'Rahul Gandhi Zindabad,' and calls for him to be appointed prime minister.

It was the Congress machine at its most vociferous, backed by enthusiastic youth workers, a day savoured to the full by a proud and emotional mother who personally supervised her son's anointment as the party's new leader.

During the three days of the Chintan Shivir, Sonia Gandhi has placed a great deal of emphasis on women empowerment and the problems faced by women.

Interestingly, during a meeting on women empowerment headed by Girja Vyas, and in Sonia Gandhi's presence, a number of Congresswomen complained about the status of women within the Congress organisation.

The party, the Congresswomen complained, has been unable to implement the 33 per cent quota for women in political posts, a cause Sonia Gandhi has championed. As women, they said, they are not given party posts, and positions are not allotted on merit in the organisation.

One lady leader even complained of exploitation of women by senior party leaders.

In response, Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have directed that a cell be set up in the All India Congress Committee to deal with exploitation and harassment of women.

Sources say Rahul Gandhi's elevation as vice-president at Saturday's meeting of the Congress Working Committee took Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by surprise.

After Defence Minister A K Antony proposed Rahul's name as vice-president and party General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi seconded it, Dwivedi turned to the prime minister, but Dr Singh, the sources claimed, failed to congratulate Rahul Gandhi.

Only after four CWC members greeted Rahul with bouquets did the prime minister get into the act, the sources told this reporter.

Sunday's build-up for Rahul Gandhi as the Congress leader empowered to take decisions is a clear signal to Dr Singh that the next election belongs to the younger man.

If the Congress wins the general election, scheduled for 2014, Rahul Gandhi could well be prime minister like his father, grandmother and great grandfather before him. If the Congress loses the election, Rahul could be Leader of the Opposition.

Renu Mittal in Jaipur