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Rahul is a Gandhi, not a ‘satta-mohi’

New Delhi, June 30: The Congress today formally endorsed party general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s observation that Rahul Gandhi was not a power-hungry politician.

“What Digvijaya meant is that Rahul is not hankering for power. Rahul satta-mohi nahi hain (Rahul is not power hungry),” spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told an official briefing.

“The Nehru-Gandhi family never lusted for power. Sonia Gandhi refused the post of Prime Minister and that act of great sacrifice is known to the nation. Rahul Gandhi opted to work for the party and the people despite pressure to join the government. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted him to join his cabinet.”

At an interview on Saturday, Digvijaya had said Rahul “by temperament was not a ruling person (sattadhari vyakti)”. It triggered a controversy in the media, with some sections analysing the comment as a critique of Rahul’s apparent disinterest in politics and even his ability to lead the party.

Digvijaya had also described Rahul as “a person who wants to fight injustice”, which watered down the perception of a negative assessment of the Congress vice-president’s political persona.

Although some leaders argued in private that Digvijaya was questioning Rahul’s ability, the party dealt with the issue at its official briefing, clearly hinting that the leadership had no quarrel with the general secretary’s contention.

“We don’t think not being power hungry is a bad thing,” the spokesperson said. “We respect such leaders.”

As Rahul will, anyway, not get an opportunity to be in power in the next five years, Congress leaders feel that there could not have been a better message to send out than his commitment to “fight injustice”.

Rahul, who has never shown any intense desire for power, gave a glimpse of his mindset when he told a party conclave last year that “power is poison”. He has also often asserted that holding a post or becoming Prime Minister was not his primary goal and has, in the past, snubbed senior leaders who publicly asked him to replace Manmohan Singh.

But he had agreed to “take up any job… the party assigned to him” in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Rahul has apparently not honoured this commitment as the majority of senior leaders wanted him to be the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. Digvijaya too had raised this issue in his interview.

While some say Rahul felt he should not get bogged down with parliamentary work as the organisation requires his undivided attention, others suspect his tactical retreat betrayed a lack of confidence.

A key party strategist, however, put things in perspective. “If Rahul wants to perform in the Lok Sabha, he can do that without being the leader of Opposition…,” said the strategist.

“There is no clarity on the leader of Opposition status and the NDA has a brute majority in the House. It was a wise decision to back someone like Mallikarjun Kharge (for leader of the party) as any amount of good work would have left Rahul looking ineffective in this House. But he can make an impact by working harder for the organisation.”