Rahul ready for ‘pro-active’ role, to be No 2 in party (Evening Lead)

July 19th, 2012 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi will be number two in the Congress after Sonia Gandhi, the party said Thursday after he declared that he was ready for a “more proactive role in the party and the government” and stoked speculation about the nature of his future responsibilites.

Rahul Gandhi said the decision about his taking a proactive role had been taken and the timing was left to the leadership.

But the Bharatiya Janata Party dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, saying the Nehru-Gandhi family scion was already calling the shots in the Congress “without responsibility” and all that would happen is change in his nomenclature.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh had said earlier this month that Rahul Gandhi could play a bigger role by September.

Rahul Gandhi told NDTV after voting for presidential election in the parliament that he would play a more “pro-active” role.

“I will play more proactive role in the party and the government. The decision has been taken, the timing is up to the leadership,” he said.

The remark evoked almost immediate confirmation about his future role from party media department chairman Janardan Dwivedi who said the young leader was set to play number two position in the party.

“In future, his role would be after Congress president. That is clear,” Dwivedi said.

It also set off speculation that Rahul Gandhi, 42, could be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Dwivedi, however, later issued a press statement toning down his remarks made to TV channels.

“We will be very happy if Shri Rahul Gandhi takes on some more responsibility and it will be a very welcome step. What responsibility (whether in the government or in the party) and when is upto the party leadership and Rahulji to decide,” Dwivedi said.

This is the first time that Rahul Gandhi has spoken about the possibility of joining the government or taking up a bigger role in the Congress as the party prepares for a string of state elections and the Lok Sabha elections.

Interestingly, the big announcement came on the day former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and till a few days ago the government and party’s chief strategist, was contesting the presidential election and well on his way to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

On Wednesday, party chief Sonia Gandhi said it was up to her son to decide on taking up a bigger role.

Rahul Gandhi’s remarks triggered a wave of statements from party leaders.

“We are very happy that he will be taking much more encompassing role,” said Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot said.

Corporate Affairs Minister Veerapa Moily said the party and government needed its young, passionate and enthusiastic leader to play a bigger role.

“I have been saying this for the past two years…Rahul should play a larger role all over the country,” Digvijay Singh said.

He said a large section of country’s population was young and “people were looking for new leadership.”

Rahul Gandhi’s remarks intensified speculation about the exact nature of his future assignments and tasks.

There is talk that he could be made member of the core committee. Mukherjee is no longer a member of the panel and Rahul Gandhi could be his replacement.

Though Rahul Gandhi has not accepted invitations from the prime minister to join his ministry, some senior leaders have suggested that this should happen.

There is also the buzz that he made working president but a senior leader virtually ruled out the possibility, saying that Sonia Gandhi was its full-time president. However, speculation continues about his being appointed vice president or secretary general.

Rahul Gandhi’s announcement has coincided with the party leadership mulling major appointments including Leader of Lok Sabha and a reshuffle of the cabinet and All India Congress Committee.

Party leaders hope that Rahul Gandhi’s more active role would energise workers and give a boost to the government’s image, battered by allegations of indecision, corruption and financial imprudence.

Congress leaders have defended Rahul Gandhi over party’s performance in assembly polls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid had said earlier this month that the party was waiting for a new ideological direction from Rahul Gandhi.

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