In a move aimed at revitalising the ruling coalition ahead of general elections sometime in the next two years, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi stepped squarely into the ring on Thursday, signaling at long last that he was ready for a more "proactive role".
A day after his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it was up to him to decide his future course, the 42-year scion of the Gandhi family sent party leaders into celebratory mode by declaring, according to PTI: "I will play a more proactive role in the party and the government. The decision has been taken, the timing is up to my two bosses - the Congress president and the Prime Minister."Senior leaders like Salman Khurshid and Digvijaya Singh have, in recent weeks, upped the ante by calling for Rahul to play a more active role.
Party sources said Thursday's comments may have been made to head off any building up of criticism in party circles, though the timing of his elevation remains undecided. He is currently general secretary in charge of the Youth Congress and the National Students' Union of India.
Rahul's statement sparked speculation about the roles he may take up.
His de facto number two position in the party may be formalised by appointing him vice-president or secretary general, the steepening of a hierarchy to replace the current flat structure that features several general secretaries immediately below Sonia.
He could also join the cabinet, though he has so far turned down requests from the PM. Going by his areas of interest, human resources development or rural development are possible destinations.
Rahul has been silently expanding his role. After presiding over the Congress' unsuccessful campaign in the Uttar Pradesh elections, he has been meeting party MPs from various states and interacting more with ministers on various issues.
The day Pranab Mukherjee resigned from the finance ministry, Rahul met him for almost 90 minutes to reportedly discuss several "national issues".
A few months ago, he called a special meeting on rural development with party MPs and minister Jairam Ramesh.
"We will be very happy if he takes on more responsibility. What responsibility, whether in the government or the party, and when is up to the party leadership and Rahulji to decide," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.
BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy, on his part, said Rahul was already involved in the decision-making process and could not be absolved of the "present mess of the UPA dispensation".