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Unease, minus word on Rahul

New Delhi, Dec. 24: Lack of clarity on leadership, alliances and a campaign roadmap has deepened the sense of disquiet in the Congress at a time the ranks were expecting swift action in the wake of devastating poll results early this month.

The party is more or less unanimous that the projection of Rahul Gandhi as the candidate for Prime Minister is unavoidable to lift the morale of the workers and the ticking clock is adding to the panic.

Opportunities lurk in the coming days — such as the party’s foundation day on December 28 and the AICC session on January 17 — but there is no clarity if the announcement would indeed be made.

The Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation, Janardan Dwivedi, today asserted that there was no doubt about “who the future leader is” but refused to confirm whether Rahul’s name would be declared at the January 17 AICC session.

“Insofar as the issue of leadership is concerned, we have been maintaining that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is there. The whole country and the party knows that it is Rahul who comes after the Congress president. It became all the more clear after he became the party vice-president. It is also true that he is the future leader of the Congress,” Dwivedi said.

Sonia had set up the A.K. Antony committee to deal with the question of alliances but it has slept through the months, waiting for the eleventh-hour knock to wake up. Antony has now written to AICC general secretaries, asking for proposals for alliances in states under their charge.

The question of alliances is vital as candidate selection cannot begin in several states without the completion of this process. The general secretaries and Pradesh Congress Committees have been asked to respond quickly.

The decision-making process is moving at a snail’s pace and many senior leaders believe the uncertainty about the creation of Telangana, again caused by the same culture of procrastination, could prove costly for the party in the 2014 election.

There has been talk of changes in several key state units with younger leaders being sent to energise the organisational machinery but decisions have been inexplicably delayed. Speculation has been going on about Jyotiraditya Scindia being sent to Madhya Pradesh, Sachin Pilot to Rajasthan and Ashok Tanwar to Haryana.

Even important leaders in the high command appear to be in waiting mode, eagerly hoping for Rahul to launch the campaign for 2014. “Let’s see what happens,” is the refrain to questions on preparations and plans though most Lok Sabha MPs want Rahul to go the whole hog without wasting time on review meetings and strategy sessions.

The MPs are desperate to see him in the battlefield, suggesting that he should hold rallies in the entire Hindi heartland while Sonia should focus on other states.

Rahul has instead been concentrating on meeting party leaders and journalists in Delhi and has called a session of Congress chief ministers on December 27. The agenda for the meeting is the status of Lokayuktas in these states and price rise.

Although the general election will invariably crop up during discussions, Rahul is keen to acquaint himself with the measures Congress chief ministers were taking to curb prices of essential commodities. The party believes corruption and prices are the main drivers of the anti-Congress mood in the country.

The AICC session in January will take up an omnibus resolution dealing with politics, the economy and foreign affairs but the purpose of the meeting is to inject life into workers who have to fight the elections at booths.

Most leaders feel the workers will automatically get battle-ready if Rahul is declared the candidate for Prime Minister; if not, no degree of pep talk will suffice to motivate the demoralised ranks.