The Congress has got off the starting blocks to election 2014 with the Jaipur declaration on the concluding day of its Chintan Shivir and the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as party vice-president. The Congress rank and file must have been heartened by Mr Gandhi's speech, in parts reminiscent of his
father's after the latter took over the party, with his vow to transform, not just improve the system. For a man of few words, Mr Gandhi was almost eloquent with his forceful agenda for change. But while appealing to the youth - both in the party and the country - Mr Gandhi was also careful to seek the cooperation and wisdom of his seniors.
Empowerment is an idea whose time has come because the people will accept nothing less was a thread that ran through the speeches of not just Mr Gandhi but also the party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In his own words, Mr Gandhi did not confine himself to just what people wanted to hear but what needed to be said. The themes of the meet were corruption, disempowerment, the need to respond to a young-and-impatient population and the need to devolve power. The Congress's election plank, at least for now, would seem to be its ambitious Aadhaar project and its cash transfer scheme. Despite listing out where the power structure had gone wrong over the years, Mr Gandhi reiterated that he was optimistic. The renunciation of power and the corrupting influence of power were recurring themes in his speech, which veered to the emotional in the end. In a departure for the reclusive family, Mr Gandhi spoke movingly of his onerous responsibility and recalled his father's pain and grief after the death of Indira Gandhi. And most uncharacteristically, he spoke of his mother's tears after his elevation to the new post.
While the Jaipur meeting went according to script, the task before the party now is enormous. In many states, the Congress is not in the reckoning at all. But for the party, this is a sign that a younger generation of leaders will now come to the fore and bring in a new and inclusive style of functioning. If this means that the Grand Old Party can reinvent and re-energise itself, its opponents certainly have something to worry about. The Congress's invitation to new allies too will give at least the BJP a few sleepless nights. While it is too early to say that it will be Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi in 2014, the Congress party seems to have its roadmap ready on many important issues. And after a long time, the Congress seems to be full of beans as it goes into election mode.