The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bring-Rahul cry in Cong

New Delhi, May 24: Sonia Gandhi’s plans to revamp the Congress have set off renewed speculation in the party that son Rahul could be roped in as an office-bearer.

“We had all urged the Congress president last year itself to appoint Rahul Gandhi as a party general secretary. The call has wider support from the party rank and file. We hope it will happen this time,” said a senior AICC functionary.

On May 16, Sonia had announced in the presence of several party colleagues that she would revamp her AICC team after June 9 when the organisation elections, now in the final stages, conclude. Sonia, however, sidestepped questions on Rahul’s induction.

Several party leaders, including Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, Salman Khurshid and Janardhan Dwivedi, have been openly calling for a party post for Rahul.

Khurshid, who heads the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, has said a formal position for the Amethi MP would strengthen his efforts to revive the party in the state.

Congress leaders, who were disappointed when Sonia did not rope in Rahul before the Lok Sabha elections, feel the time is now ripe for his grooming. “He has spent a lot of time in the past year in Amethi (his Lok Sabha constituency). He has had good exposure as he has visited states like Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and interacted with local party leaders and workers,” said one leader.

Party leaders draw a parallel with the way Rajiv Gandhi was made an office-bearer nearly 23 years ago. A year after she brought her elder son into the Lok Sabha from Amethi in a by-election after Sanjay Gandhi’s death, Indira Gandhi made him a party general secretary, one leader pointed out.

Outside Amethi, Rahul has shied away from making his presence felt. A backbencher in the Lok Sabha, he has spoken only once since last June. His brief intervention was about the problem of sugarcane growers in Uttar Pradesh. In Amethi though, he is trying to push development and has come up with plans for a hospital and a computer training institute.

But the party’s leaders believe it is time for him to come out of Amethi and play a bigger role at the national level.

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