Rahul Gandhi is already in control of the party’s daily affairs while also making an effort to reach out to allies, Congress leaders have said amid renewed talk of the 45-year-old’s elevation to the party top job.
“For all practical purposes, he is running the show now with the Congress president confining herself to dealing with older allies and old-timers in the party,” a leader known to be part of Rahul’s inner circle told HT. “For the rest, he is the de facto chief.”
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is encouraging Rahul to take over greater responsibility and he has been leading the party’s charge on several issues, party sources said.
Political strategist Prashant Kishor, roped in to revive Congress’ fortunes ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh and Punjab state elections, reported to Rahul and not Sonia. The Congress’ aggressive stance in Parliament -- despite small numbers in the Lok Sabha -- and the party’s response to the goods and services tax bill were all led by Rahul, sources said.
As Congress general secretary, a post he was appointed to in 2007, Rahul had concentrated on party’s frontal organisations – the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. Once appointed vice-president in January 2013, the Amethi MP has shown a marked change in his approach.
“There are older allies like Lalu Prasad and Sharad Pawar who have said, in the past, that they are more comfortable dealing with her (Sonia). It is a question of not just stature but age,” a former UPA minister said. With Bihar, however, Rahul showed he could work with allies, even difficult ones, he said.
The Congress is the junior partner in the ruling alliance in the eastern state with Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) and Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
“He has a great equation with Nitish Babu and that ensured the alliance was stitched,” a senior Congress leader said.
Party leaders also cited him sharing stage with DMK’s MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and CPM leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in West Bengal during the recently concluded state elections as examples of the Congress vice-president’s allies’ outreach.
The talk of old timers’ discomfort with Rahul was a thing of the past, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. “He is in fact a bridge between the traditional and the modern,” he said.
The inclusion of Ambika Soni and Oscar Fernandes – both are considered Sonia loyalists, in the list of Rajya Sabha nominees showed greater synergy between the new and the old, party leaders said. The biennial elections to the Upper House are to be held June 11.