The Telegraph
Thursday , January 16 , 2014
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No finality, but Rahul chorus gets louder

New Delhi, Jan. 15: A fierce debate continues in the top leadership of the Congress over whether or not to pin the tag of “prime ministerial candidate” on Rahul Gandhi, but leaders and workers from across the country arriving for Friday’s AICC session can’t see what the dilemma is about.

The party’s senior leaders did not reveal their decision, saying the nature of the declaration would be formalised in the Congress Working Committee meeting tomorrow.

“No finality yet,” a top leader told The Telegraph, while admitting that the daylong AICC session would be dominated by a Rahul-centric agenda.

But ordinary workers, who actually carry the party’s message to the voters, are impatient that Rahul is not Prime Minister already. AICC members from Bihar and Punjab, Maharashtra and Odisha spoke in unison, arguing that he should have taken over from Manmohan Singh before the election.

The AICC meeting on Friday will reflect the popular sentiment in favour of declaring Rahul the party’s candidate.

Two new posters also show that the party vice-president will be its face henceforth. While this is something the leadership also is agreed on, it is still deciding whether using the prime ministerial tag would be wise.

One poster bears the slogan, “Rahulji ke nau hathiyar/door karenge bhrastachar (Rahul’s nine weapons will eliminate corruption) and lists nine bills against corruption that the UPA had either tabled or got passed. The second slogan is: “Rahulji ka udeshya/Bhrastachar mukt desh (Rahul’s target: corruption-free India).”

Other hoardings for the mega meet will carry the photographs of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh along with Rahul.

Party workers here for the AICC session agreed that corruption had created a credibility crisis for the leadership, but said it was inflation that had really turned the “aam aadmi” against the Congress.

Their prescription: immediate increase in the number of subsidised cylinders, significant reduction in prices of petrol and diesel, lowering of home loan rates and strict monitoring of vegetable prices.

Loitering at the party headquarters to catch a glimpse of “any senior leader”, many were bitterly critical of policy-makers in the government. Political workers from villages held forth on Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and questioned if enforcing fiscal discipline would help the Congress in elections.

“What do we tell the voters who abuse us in villages and towns? The statistical web that economists weave will sink us. Rahul-ji should take over and show we are a party of the aam aadmi, there is still enough time left,” one such worker said.

Many leaders who had advocated that the party go alone, arguing that it needs to stand on its own in the states, have changed their tune and are pleading for good alliances. Asked why, they said the situation was grim and that the party should do anything it can to stop Narendra Modi from coming to power.

Did they think Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could be the answer? AICC members spoken to were firm there should be no confusion about the leadership at this stage and the entire party should rally behind Rahul.