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Rahul coronation chorus picks up steam

Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Feb. 14: Amid confusion and sniping within, the majority opinion in the Congress is now supportive of the idea that Rahul Gandhi be given the reins of the party right away.

Although some senior leaders and the entire young brigade had been repeatedly proposing this for the past few months, sources reveal that Sonia Gandhi herself is now willing. "She is still in two minds but she appeared to be more receptive to the idea. There is a change in her thinking," a senior leader told The Telegraph.

Several leaders, including a few top functionaries, hope Rahul will be made Congress president in the April AICC session. Although the date and venue are not yet final, Bangalore is being seriously considered as an option and the session could be held in the second week of April. All the changes in the organisation that the party is desperately waiting for could come after that.

The decision to elevate Rahul at this juncture won't be easy, with the question of Sonia's future role continuing to torment key strategists. But those who support the idea argue that Sonia's supremacy is not in doubt and that no post is required to sanctify her leadership. They insist it is Rahul's leadership that has to be established, not hers.

But there is still a powerful section within the party that is not comfortable with promoting Rahul in these hostile political circumstances. They argue that only Sonia can steer the party in these troubled times, and that better political occasions will come in the next couple of years to project Rahul's leadership before the big battle in 2019.

One senior leader went to the extent of predicting "a deeper crisis" in the party if Rahul was promoted now. He said on condition of anonymity: "Many leaders from across the country feel Rahul is not mature enough to take everybody along and Sonia's engagement with the organisation needs to be significantly upgraded. I don't see the Congress retaining its present form under Rahul; there will be desertions and dissenting voices."

But the other section says there is enough time to set the house in order and the revival plan cannot be held hostage to the possibility of turbulence. "We have to give Rahul at least three-four years to tour the country and implement his ideas. Change cannot come without hard work. He will have to connect with the people in every state and convince the people about his sincerity. The era of politics based on mere charisma is over," an AICC general secretary said.

These leaders feel the leadership question has to be settled in Rahul's favour sooner than later. They argue that he too would come under pressure to perform as party president and this phase of inaction would end. These leaders insist that even the dissenters know a takeover by Rahul is inevitable and the pressure tactics are merely bargaining positions for political space.

Referring to Sandeep Dikshit's remarks yesterday about the problem with internal elections and deadwood in the party, many leaders said these are genuine issues which require attention to improve the party's functioning. They said this should not be viewed as an anti-Rahul position. One AICC secretary said: "We don't approve of Dikshit's outburst in the media but everybody feels half of leaders holding key positions in states and the high command are deadwood. Rahul too would agree with this. And the complaint against internal elections has been conveyed to Rahul by hundreds of leaders and he should correct his position on this vital issue."

Although some leaders are trying to delay the transition for personal reasons, because Rahul's dislike for them is obvious, the majority opinion is that dragging on with this temporary set-up is suicidal and a criminal waste of time. They see no reason why Rahul should not be given charge at the next AICC session.


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