Congress president Sonia Gandhi may have vetoed the clamour from most of her party leaders to project her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi for reasons of political expediency, but her refusal to give in to widespread expectations of her party men at Friday’s session of the All India Congress Committee can also be seen as a tactical move. She wants to thwart BJP’s projected prime minister Narendra Modi’s game plan to make the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections into a battle of personalities. The Congress party would like to focus its electoral campaign by pitting its own plank of inclusive development against with BJP’s divisive agenda by harping on Modi’s post-Godhra image.
Whether this strategy will pay off or not remains to be seen. However, the fact that Rahul has been unambiguously asked to lead the party’s coming electoral battles should be welcomed as it now entrusts the Gandhi family with the responsibility of wielding power with a greater sense of authority. Even before Friday’s formal resolution handing over the baton to him, Rahul had started dictating the policies of the Congress-led central and state governments by issuing directives to the Union ministers and Congress chief ministers. From now on, he can do so with greater legitimacy and authority.
Rahul seemed conscious of this when he told Congressmen hours after he was selected to lead the party in its bid for a third shot in power that, “We are warriors, and we will go into battle knowing what we stand for.” He also said that the party manifesto now would be made not in closed-door conclaves but after interacting with the people. Such rhetoric may adrenalise his disappointed party workers, but he now needs to define his ideology and road map for development more clearly and be more accessible. His views on economy, international relations, national security and regionalism are not known. He should be clearer in his policy formulations and shoulder full responsibility for actions of Congress-led governments.