It’s less chintan, more Rahul promotion at Cong Shivir

The Congress’s ongoing brainstorming camp in Jaipur is turning out to be less 'chintan’ and more 'promote Rahul Gandhi’ campaign.

Party leaders seem to be in a competitive hurry to project him as the prime ministerial candidate for 2014 and hasten the process of his anointment to a more decorative position officially, signifying his position as Number 2 in the Congress after Sonia Gandhi.

Going by the mood of the leaders and from what they have been speaking both on the sidelines of the meet and at the supposed brainstorming sessions, it appears that the Congress believes Rahul’s elevation would be the solution to all the problems of the party that Sonia Gandhi listed yesterday in her inaugural presidential speech.

The chorus of Rahul for PM from the senior leaders is expected to reach the crescendo tomorrow when the two-day closed door Chintan Baithak opens up to conclude with an open house AICC conclave. AFP

His failure to deliver in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat notwithstanding, the party believes it can ride on him to return to power in 2014 and form UPA III. It’s possible many leaders disagree with that, but at the moment everyone wants to be on the right side of the family and the man who is the de-facto number 2 in the party hierarchy.

The chorus of Rahul for PM from the senior leaders is expected to reach the crescendo tomorrow when the two-day closed door Chintan Baithak opens up to conclude with an open house AICC conclave, to be attended by around 1,500 delegates from across the country.

The conclusion of the two days of Chintan, as approved by the Congress Working Group (CWC), will be adopted at Sunday’s AICC conclave as Jaipur Declaration. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make speeches on the occasion.

Hardly anyone from the delegates in the conclave would get a chance to speak from the podium,  but it is the atmospherics which will be more important. The chanting and sloganeering for Rahul would set the tone. This has happened in the past at various forums and this time around it’s only going to get shriller and perhaps more effective. Rahul himself is reluctant to take up that position and that is the reason why a formal decision has been delayed for long.

The clamour for a bigger role for Rahul from the lesser leaders and workers at the AICC conclave will give the impression that it is not just the sycophants who want his elevation, the Congress’s subaltern want him too. It might be touted as one more sacrifice from the Congress first family for the party.

There is a feeling that the growing chorus may make Prime Minister Manmohan Singh utter something that would gel with atmospherics. Even if he does not say anything openly about Rahul, he would drop enough hints by asking the younger generation to take more responsibility.

Sonia Gandhi brief reflection on youth aspiration and impatience was accordingly interpreted. “A significant number of participants are from the younger generation. This reflects our priorities and resonates with the demographic reality of our country,” she said yesterday. Rahul had insisted on inclusion of a greater number of young participants, over 100 in the 350-odd gathering and that was seen as his big stamp on the meet.

“This is the first chintan shivir where such a large number of youths and elected members have been invited and the credit should go to Rahul Gandhi,” said senior party leaders Motilal Vora and Ambika Soni while making introductory references before the Congress president’s speech. Both acknowledged Rahul’s preeminence at the session.

Ahead of the formal opening of the session, AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, considered closest to Rahul Gandhi and one who heads the committee on Emerging Socio- Economic Challenges, said the Congress workers wanted him to play a “predominant” role but he should  not be “pressured”. Similar sentiments were reflected by Rajiv Shukla, BK Hari Prasad, Veerapa Moily and several other leaders.

A formal announcement on Rahul elevation is unlikely. That would be left for a later date at Rahul’s choosing. But the party leaders will get to know of his thoughts when he speaks tomorrow.

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