After the results of the assembly elections became apparent on Sunday, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chairperson Sonia Gandhi appeared before the media and, unusually, taking questions, said the Congress would soon announce the name of its prime ministerial candidate at the opportune time.
Sources say there is little doubt that the name of Rahul Gandhi would be declared as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. They say Sonia, with Rahul on her side, let slip as much, when she said the name of “him”, their prime ministerial candidate, would be announced at an opportune time.
However, very reliable sources atop Raisina Hill say that Rahul will not only be the prime ministerial candidate but may even be sworn in as the Prime Minister in January. There is a belief the UPA should go into the next election with a fresh face as their leader and not Manmohan Singh who is now largely recognised as having run an extremely corrupt government.
It would also mean that, and there was an indication from Rahul himself today, that the old guard may be dispensed with altogether. Observers view Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi lashing out at outgoing chief ministers Sheila Dikshit and Ashok Gehlot (but without naming them) is the first sign of this.
Rahul, this analysis within the party suggests, would get the benefit of the positive reaction to the social schemes launched in the last few years. It is feared that a continuation of Singh as the PM would make all the social groups that have traditionally voted for the Congress to part ways with the grand old party unless a ‘Gandhi’ steps up to the plate and takes responsibility.
Doomsayers within the party say the party may reduce to below 80 seats in 2014 elections if drastic measures weren’t taken. And if the Congress does as badly as that, Rahul may also personally benefit by having the prefix ‘former prime minister’ to his name, even though he’s already a ‘Gandhi’. Depending on who’s elected prime minister by the next Lok Sabha, sources also think this might provide him some ‘cover’, later.