The decision of Rahul Gandhi, the 38-year-old Congress general secretary and son of party chief Sonia Gandhi, to not join the new council of ministers is less about renunciation and more a calculated strategy to let Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have his space, top party sources said.
Rahul Gandhi, who is being credited for the Congress' incredible poll performance in the country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, has decided not to join the government to ensure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "gets his space and freedom", a leader close to 10, Janpath (the residence of Sonia Gandhi), told IANS.
"If Rahul Gandhi joins the cabinet, he will become a veritable power centre within the government that will dilute Manmohan Singh's authority," the senior leader, who has also been sworn in a minister, said. He spoke on condition of strict anonymity as he was not authorised to disclose party strategy.
The Congress general secretary is being credited for the party's strategy to go it alone in Uttar Pradesh and not give in to "blackmail" by the Samajwadi Party. The strategy paid off with the Congress bagging 21 out of 80 seats in the state when it was being widely considered a peripheral player with only nine seats.
He also handpicked several young party candidates for the Lok Sabha polls who staged upsets in several states though they were political novices.
The Congress minister, who is yet to be allocated a portfolio, said: "The party leadership doesn't wish for any dissension and wants the prime minister to do his job without any hindrance."
"Now, if Rahul is there, many (ministers) may gravitate towards him and this will not augur well for him (Manmohan)."
The idea was not so much of any renunciation, which Sonia Gandhi already proved by not becoming the prime minister either in 2004 or now, when she all along propped up Singh for the top job.
"Of course, if Rahul doesn't join the ministry it would only add to the reputation of the Gandhi family. But that's not the moot point - it is to let Manmohan Singh have his space while Rahul builds the party," he explained, revealing the party's strategy.
Rahul Gandhi, who emerged as the party's new star campaigner and strategist during Election 2009, has repeatedly said his priority is to build the party.
"Elections come and go. My job is to strengthen the party," Gandhi told IANS soon after the first lot of cabinet ministers in the new government took oath at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday.