NEW DELHI: Elated over the response to Rahul Gandhi’s trip to the United States in September, Congress managers are now planning to hold similar NRI conclaves in Bahrain and Dubai in the first week of January 2018. While the US trip was meant to present the then Congress vice-president as a global leader months before his elevation as the party president, this will be his first visit abroad as party chief.
However, the purpose remains the same — to strengthen brand Rahul, who will take on Narendra Modi in the 2019 national elections. Since 2014, Modi has been actively wooing NRIs, and the Gandhi-family scion seems eager to catch up.
“The schedule is being worked out and we are exploring if he can touch upon more points,” a party source told The Sunday Standard.
People involved in the planning said that while Rahul is expected to attend a conclave of NRIs in Bahrain on January 7 and 8, he could also visit Dubai for a similar interaction on January 9. Bahrain has around 3.12 lakh NRIs.
Gandhi family friend Sam Pitroda, who heads the Indian Overseas Congress US chapter, was the brain behind Rahul’s visit, which received country-wide appreciation as the young leader articulated his views on diverse topics ranging from economy to politics and governance.
The Gulf region, which has been the focus of Indian foreign policy for long, was always in the focus of former Congress chiefs. With huge remittances coming from the region, the area is significant as far as jobs for NRIs are concerned. Moreover, a large chunk of Gulf NRIs come from the southern states, where Rahul is keen to shore up the party’s prospects in the coming months. The party lost power in Kerala in 2015.
“Rahul keeps track of global trends. Such interactions on foreign soil help him enhance his audience as well as send a message to the domestic audience. If there are still doubts about his articulation, they will soon go away,” said a senior AICC functionary.