Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is set to intensify his assault on the government by reaching out to home-buyers and Dalits amid speculation about his elevation to the party’s top job.
He has invited home-buyers to the Congress headquarters on Saturday to discuss concerns about a new real estate bill that the Congress has termed anti-consumer. There are fears that the bill, keenly awaited by middle-class voters, dilutes penalties for late delivery of homes and does not safeguard against money being diverted from one project to another.
The 44-year-old Gandhi scion is also planning to visit Mhow, the birth place of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, on May 29. This is a move that could concern the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has tried to cultivate Dalit voters. He is also due to hold a padyatra in Telangana to express solidarity with farmers.
For long there has been talk about Rahul’s promotion to president. His anointment has been linked to organisation elections set to be held in September, but sources told HT on Friday that there was a possibility that this could happen earlier.
“Rahul’s elevation as Congress president is imminent and inevitable. He can assume the formal number one position soon,” a senior party functionary told HT.
Party sources stressed, however, that a final call on the timing of the change of guard would be taken jointly by current president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.
Till now considered a reluctant politician, Rahul’s unusually combative mode in and outside Parliament on his return from a nearly two-month-long political sabbatical has charged the Congress ranks and bolstered hopes that he would “magically restore” the health of a party struggling to recover from a series of electoral setbacks.
This has apparently led to the thinking in favour of an early takeover by Rahul. His blistering attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-led NDA government on the land bill, farmers’ rights and internet neutrality have forced the government to sit up and take notice.
Since his return, Rahul, as per a well-crafted strategy, has been addressing different sections of society on issues that concern them, be it farmers on the land bill or compensation, the apprehensions of pilgrims about their safety en route to Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, netizens’ interests and the tragedy in Nepal.
“He has brought life back to party. He has to take over anyway… so why prolong it?” asked another leader.
Sonia has invited senior party leaders and members of Parliament for a dinner at her residence on May 6.
When Rahul was away on a leave of absence, there were divergent voices in the party on his anointment.
Nine-time MP Kamal Nath has consistently advocated that Rahul should immediately take over the baton from Sonia as the party risked confusion by having two power centres. “There is a fatigue factor and it is time Congress must position Rahul,” he recently said, adding that Sonia should retire and be the mentor of the party. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh too had pitched for Rahul’s elevation.
However, another set of senior leaders such as Sheila Dikshit, Captain Amarinder Singh and Sandeep Dikshit have suggested that Sonia should continue to lead the Congress as she was needed at the helm now more than ever.