By YKA Staff:
The speculation about Rahul Gandhi taking over as Congress president anytime soon is on again.
Currently, the vice-president of the Indian National Congress is in Europe.
On December 27, Rahul took to Twitter to announce that he will be travelling to Europe for a “few days”, the first time that he has gone public about a trip abroad. This was expected as the BJP has been targeting him over his unscheduled and unpublicised travels outside the country lately.
Sources in the party say that the Congress Vice President could be back anytime after January 8 following which a meeting of Congress Working Committee may also happen.
“He (Rahul) is ready to take on the mantle. It is wrong to say that he does not want to become President. There is also no truth in suggestions that Gandhi may wait till the completion of assembly polls in Assam before he is elevated as Congress President,” a party functionary said on the condition of anonymity.
The leader felt that the elevation of Gandhi should be happening “sooner than later” but refused to attach a timeline.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had responded by saying “ask him” when reporters queried her on Rahul’s elevation as President in the party some days back at the Foundation Day function.
The riders attached in the statement by the party functionary make it clear that the matter is far from settled. It could very well be that Rahul Gandhi would wait for the results of the Assam polls which are likely to be held in March or April this year as it would give his stature an additional fillip in the case of a victory. Of course, if Assam is lost, he might have to wait a little longer before assuming leadership. However, the worst-case scenario would be if he takes up the position before Assam polls and the party ends up losing as the loss would surely be blamed on him by sections critical of him within the party and outside. A pragmatic Congress would certainly not want that to happen.
It is also likely that the speculation has caught on again after the Congress’ improved performance in Bihar polls.
However, the party was only a small player in the Bihar polls whereas in Assam it heads the government and a victory there would certainly add more to the theory that the Congress is up and running again.
Senior party leader Digvijay Singh had said a few months back that the grassroots Congress workers wanted the elevation to happen soon but the decision can only be taken by the Congress president. A section of leaders in the party also believe that Rahul should have agreed for an elevation long back.
A meeting of the Congress Working Committee in September last year decided to extend the deadline of the completion of party’s internal polls for one more year till 2016. This led to a speculation that Rahul’s elevation has been advanced for one more year. The party, however, later indicated that the Congress Vice President could be given the responsibility even earlier and the one-year extension is only the upper limit for completing internal polls.
The internal polls were initiated by Rahul Gandhi following a similar exercise in the Youth Congress which he headed earlier.
Sonia’s latest term comes to an end in December this year. The organisational polls held after five years culminate in the election of the new party President. Sonia, who took over as Congress chief in May 1998, is already the longest-serving president of the 129-year-old party. Rahul Gandhi became Vice President of the Organization in January 2013.
It is known that the so-called Old Guard has not been very keen on Rahul Gandhi taking over as the President of the Grand Old Party. The term Old Guard is used for the coterie that has been close to Sonia Gandhi. Last year, the divide between the Old Guard and the New Guard – or supporters and followers of Rahul Gandhi – came to fore when the latter publicly criticised the former.
It remains to be seen what role Priyanka Gandhi would play in case Rahul Gandhi takes over as president. Several Congress leaders have spoken openly about the need to have her on board in a formal way after the party lost the General Elections held last year.
It has been noted by several observers that Rahul Gandhi has stepped up his game after returning from a mystery tour after the party’s loss in the General Elections.
On one hand, the elevation of Rahul Gandhi might energise the younger leaders in the party and help the vice-president control the party and implement his agenda in a smooth manner. At the same time, it will be necessary for him to keep the Old Guard in check so that it does not derail his plans for the party.
The ball is now in his court.