Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is likely to be appointed the working president of the party soon to help his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi, setting the stage for a transition process at the helm of India’s oldest party, informed party sources said.
"The delegation of higher responsibilities to Rahulji is a only a matter of when, not if," a senior Congress leader told IANS.
"But knowing the style of Soniaji (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahulji, I feel all the dates and timeframes circulated are still speculative," he added. "It can happen soon, but how soon is anybody’s guess."
Sonia, who had returned three month ago from the US after surgery for an undisclosed illness, but which was widely rumoured to be cancer, is said to be keen to delegate some of her administrative charges to Rahul, leaving herself free to look after policy matters alone.
Rahul, 41, currently is a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in charge of youth and student wings and a second-term Lok Sabha member from the family bastion Amethi.
Another party leader said the decision on the timing of Rahul’s assumption will be taken in the family, basically between Sonia and Rahul and may be in consultation with Rahul’s sister Priyanka Vadra.
"It is a close-nit family. During Sonia’s illness it was the son and sister who were with her, by turns," he pointed out. "And if the tranfer of power comes soon, it may have something to do with the health condition of Sonia, which appears near to normal if her participation in functions and party meetings are any indication."
Party sources said ardent Rahul fans in the election-bound Uttar Pradesh want him to be made the working president at the earliest and keep circulating dates like Nov 14 (birth anniversary of his great grandfather and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru) and Nov 19 (the birth anniversary of his grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi)
Meanwhile, another leader in New Delhi told that Dec 28 – the 126th foundation day of the Indian National Congress – may be the date.
But other party leaders point out that both Sonia and Rahul will be busy in the coming weeks and months, leading the election campaign in the five states – Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur.
"So if any new position for Rahul may be after the UP polls likely in February. Hope the Congress tally goes above the current 22 MLAs and Rahulji has something to show by then," said a leader, who also spoke without wishing to be named as it was a highly sensitive issue.
In fact, Rahul Gandhi has declared in Varanasi recently that he has begun the Uttar Pradesh campaign, though he is likely to conduct a ‘padyatra’ (walkabout) at Phulpur, the traditional constituency of the Nehru family Nov 14.
"Sonia is likely to address a election meeting in Uttarakhand next week," party sources said.
The fact that Sonia Gandhi is planning to campaign may reduces the chances of she handing over the presidentship to the son," a Youth Congress leader, who also did not want to be named, said. "At the most it can be working presidentship for him."
He said there had been several reports in the past years – during both the UPA-I and UPA-II – that Rahul may join the cabinet, which did not happen.
"Slowly and steadily have been the style of the mother-son duo’s mantra," the youth leader said.
"Unless Soniaji’s health warrants it. But after her return to India Sep 8 after the surgery, she had attended several Congress meetings and the meeting of the National Advisory Council (NAC) which she heads.
"She had been at the Ramlila celebrations as well as at the Shakti Sthal to pay tributes to Indira Gandhi on her assassination day."
But political cirles point out that Rahul Gandhi’s is engaging himself in important party affairs and the governmental matters recently.
Several Congress leaders, led by general secretary Digvijay Singh had been hailing Rahul as the future prime minister, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has mentioned Rahul as a future leader.
"Now Sonia is back and the the four-member committee abandoned. It is for her to decide the new role of Rahul," the Youth Congress leader added.
The concept of working presidents in the party is not new. Arjun Singh was working president at the time of Rajiv Gandhi and Kamalapati Tripathi was the party’s first working president during the last years of Indira Gandhi.(IANS)