With days to go for Parliament's Monsoon Session, confusion prevails among Congress ranks about what " bigger role" Rahul Gandhi will shoulder in the party or in the government. The Gandhi scion is facing a problem of plenty (of posts).
Rahul's spin doctors are treading cautiously as any wrong move can undermine his image in the run- up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when he is likely to be projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
Congress leaders have suggested various posts for him - the party's working president, vice- president, general secretary in- charge of organisation, minister in the Union cabinet or Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. On Monday, a senior leader added one more post - "secretary general" of the AICC. Yet another suggestion is that he should hold a ministerial post as well as take up a more important slot in the organisation, leaving the charge of the Youth Congress and the NSUI to someone else.
On Monday, some Congress leaders started a whisper campaign that Rahul is averse to joining the Union cabinet, though the Gandhi scion had himself told the media on July 19 that he will play a more proactive role in the government and party.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone on record saying he would like to have Rahul in the cabinet. External affairs minister S. M. Krishna, former Union minister Virbhadra Singh and a few chief ministers have also favoured Rahul taking up a government post. But many others such as AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Jammu and Kashmir PCC president Saifuddin Soz and Kerala PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala have said that he should assume a bigger role in the party - Soz and Chennithala specifying " vice- president". AICC secretary Pankaj Sharma said Rahul should be in the Union Cabinet as well as hold a key post in the party. Rahul should be exempted from the " one man- onepost" norm, he said.
While none in the party, except Rahul, his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi and her political secretary, appears to have any clue as to what assignment he will finally pick, a motley crowd of 10 party MPs recently wrote to the Congress chief requesting her to anoint him as Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. The letter was subsequently leaked to the media.
Sources said Rahul is very upset with the MPs going public and pushing a signature campaign for a role for him in Parliament. While party insiders talked about the possibility of senior leaders such as power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, a former CM and governor with vast experience, and petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy, a veteran parliamentarian with deep knowledge on legislative matters, taking up the position, the demand that Rahul step into Pranab Mukherjee's shoes in the Lok Sabha has surprised many in the AICC.
The tenor of Parliament has changed over the years. Now with 40- plus parties in the Lok Sabha and the UPA depending on bullying allies on a day- to- day basis, getting key Bills passed has become a nightmare for floor managers. Besides, "the media will be constantly chasing the Leader of the House during the Session and poor response to crisis management inside or outside Parliament could seriously erode Rahul's image much to the delight of his political detractors," a senior party leader said.
The fear among some Congressmen is that if Rahul becomes the working president or vice- president, he may emerge as a parallel power centre in the party overshadowing Sonia, who is still active. If he becomes cabinet minister, he may eclipse PM Manmohan Singh.
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