Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will not be declared prime ministerial candidate but will lead the party's campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party said Thursday, putting to rest intense speculation about his role.
The decision was taken yesterday at a meeting of the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) which lasted for almost two hours.
The BJP has declared Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate.
Manmohan Singh had announced earlier this month that he will not be seeking another term as prime minister.
CWC said it was Sonia Gandhi, who intervened and said that it was a tradition with the party not to name its PM candidate ahead of the elections.
* Sonia: If we unite and work with discipline then there is no obstacle that will deter the Congress.
* Sonia Gandhi: In all the speeches we've heard today, it is very clear that our motivation is high. Some leaders have expressed ideas, suggestions and the desire for six of our pending bills to be passed.
* Rahul: We respect the liberty and dignity of every single of our countrymen. We love our country because it stands for the idea of humanity, because it has always taught us to love our countrymen, it has taught us how to remain united in the face of struggle. No matter how dark the night, India teaches us to fight on. We will go into this battle as warriors, knowig exactly who we are and who we stand to. We will fight with every single thing we have.
* Rahul: I will do whatever you want me to do, I am your soldier.
* Rahul: What is the Congress party? The Congress party is a way of thinking. It is about brotherhood, love, respect for women. This way of thinking is not something that has come to us now. This way of thinking has been with Guru Nanak, with Akbar, with Gandhiji.
* Rahul: People of Opposition are not like us. They say what they want. They are very good marketers - they sing, they dance, they can sell combs to the bald. Don't be swayed by their talk. Read more
* Rahul: We want 12 LPG cylinders per year.
* Rahul: Bringing prices under control is important. We've removed vegetable prices from APMCs' control, and in many states we've seen prices come down.
* Rahul: I want the next AICC session to have a 50% women population. I want 50% of our chief ministers to be women. I've worked with women in Uttar Pradesh, and they told me that until women in the country are not given respect, this country will not be able to stand on its feet. So the Congress party wants to empower you women.
* Rahul: We will 'open the system' to bring inside 70 crore poor people. We will put a strong roof over your heads. We will fight your battles.
* Rahul: Three tasks - Elections in Youth Congress and NSUI; Changed the way manifesto is being written - unlike in the past when 2-3 people drew up the manifesto, we now ask Congress workers, people, NGOs and then make the manifesto; We will choose candidates based on people's desires.
* Rahul: We have to bring in new thoughts and new attitude. Congress workers will get a say in governance.
* Rahul: Real change is structural and for that we need to work continuously.
* Rahul: People demand an honest and transparent government and we respond by giving the Lokpal Act. Everybody talks about it, but who passed it? The Congress party did. We gave you the Lokpal bill and now we want to give you something else - we have six pending bills in the Parliament and these bills will transform governance.
* Rahul: We do not respond by stalling Parliament year after uear. We do not respond by taking digs at one another. We respond by being peaceful and in a democratic manner.
* Rahul: Common people should be able to enter politics. We live in a world where packaging and not politics seems to be the real thing.
* Rahul: Democracy is not the rule by the state. Democracy is not rule by one man. Democracy is rule by elected representatives of the people. We want to bring that back.
* Rahul: What is the NREGA if not a way of giving power to the people. At every step from before independence until now, the Congress has always given power to the people.
* Rahul: We also created the right to identity when we started the Aadhaar project. This ensured that the money the government spends reaches directly into your bank account.
* Rahul: Information is power. We've given power to everyone in the country. We gave you the power. Nobody told us to bring in the Right to Information Act. The Congres brought it in. We knew it was a revolutionary law that would bring us under severe scrutiny, but we still did it.
* Rahul: For the last 10 years, we've had the privilege of being in the leadership. I want to thank the prime minister and Soniaji for leadig us.
* Loud cheering as Rahul prepares to address AICC meet.
* Rahul to address session soon, launches helpline to connect with party workers.
* Sam Pitroda says country needs leadership from the 40-year-olds not from 60-year-olds.
* AICC passes resolution. "... declares that the Congress party's 2014 Lok Sabha election will be led by Rahul Gandhi".
* Priya Dutt supports Chidambaram's resolution for reserving 200 seats for youth but moves amendment saying term should be limited to three times to make room for new leaders.
* A lot of support for Rahul at AICC meet. Delegates and invitees posing for cameras outside the venue are clamouring for Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi
* PM Singh: I don't doubt that the Congress party will achieve success under Rahul's leadership
* PM Singh: It is important for our country to have inclusive politics and secular politicians, and the Congress has both these.
* PM Singh:Our country faces a lot of problems, but only protests will not help solve them. We need to collectively find ways to solve these issues.
* PM Singh: By 2017, there will be 5 crore skilled youth in the country.
* PM Singh: Today the common man can get information about the government's work and decision because of the Right to Information Act. This has been a powerful tool to battle corruption.
* PM Singh: Farmers who produce fruits and vegetables benefited from price rise.
* PM Singh:Reduced infant and maternal mortality rates and erradicated polio from the country.
* PM Singh: Every child in India goes to school and 13 crore children get mid-day meals in schools every day.
* PM Singh:Poverty reduced to 3% under our rule, rural infrastructure improved significantly and earnings of daily wage workers rose.
* PM Singh: In our work, we've taken special care to address the concerns of all sections of society, including women'a safety and welfare of children. We made punishment for sexual assault severe
* PM Singh: Country grew by at least 8.6% every year under the Congress-led UPA rule
* PM Singh: If people compare the work done by us in the government and that of the Opposition when they were in power, it will become clear how well we have performed.
* PM Manmohan Singh says the Congress is a secular party, which always looks after the poor.
* Chidambaram says Congress should field candidates under 35 years age and the new Congress slogan under Rahul should be, 'Young India, empowered India.'
* Chidambaram: Idea of India is every man ad woman should get social justice and there should be no social discrimination, and any government and state must lean in favour of the poor.
* Finance minister P Chidambaram: We have to win economic freedom for all our people.
* Saying that Rahul will lead the election campagin, Azad calls for action. "Recent political setbacks are an important wake up call. We have to work harder and enhance our connect with every India. History will repeat itself."
* Azad: To work with like-minded people, parties across the world have to fight global challenges.
* Azad: We are committed to increasing agricultural growth rate by 4% every year.
* Azad: Congres committed to creating 10 million jobs, we propose equal opportunities commission
* Azad says war against price rise will be top priority. The party needs to look for more models of affirmative action.
* Azad calls upon Congress Parliamentarians in the government to approve six pending anti-corruption bills.
* Ghulam Nabi Azad moves a combined economic and political resolution and seeks support to champion liberal democratic values Azad says that 2014 will be a contest of ideologies.
* Rahul Gandhi now comes to the dias. " I will address the audience in a few hours. I will definitely speak my mind and let you know how I feel shortly," he said.
* Sonia Gandhi begins speech. "The Congress is ready for battle for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. This election is about contrasting ideologies, clashing visions of India."
Excerpts from her sppech:
- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said — Confronting danger and facing upto adversity is the hallmark of Congress.
- Decision on Rahul is final says Sonia Gandhi at AICC meet.
- Congress has faced many difficulties in the past. We never lost heart. Never lost hope.
- The UPA made over 4 lakh kms of All Weather Rural Roads. Growth is essential, and it should be sustained.
- We passed MGNREGA to address widespread economic inequalities.
- Disparities in India still painfully widespread; growing aspiration of our people has to be met.
- I appeal all parties to pass the pending Anti-Corruption Bills in the Parliament.
- All Congress ruled states committed to powerful Lokayukta by the end of February.
- The RTI Act is the single most important tool which has empowered our citizens.
- If the growing aspirations of our people are not met, the fabric of society would be torn.
- Who you are & whom you know was more important than what you know. We changed this by stressing on education.
- The Centre has never given so many funds for so many schemes, in the history of India. I want to ask, has any govt done so much?
- As a Congress worker, we must be proud that we have always fought against Communal forces.
- PM Manmohan Singh has performed with utmost dignity and delivered many promises.
- Secularism and communal harmony are not election issues for the Congress. It is our commitment to the nation.
- Communal forces a great danger to our nation. Sometimes I feel that we have not fulfilled all aspirations of the people.
- UPA has done a lot to empower women. We have passed new laws to make them feel safe.
- Weather we win or lose, ours is the only party that is present in every village, every town.
- We have won and we have lost, but we have survived and moved forward. Lets all unite together and fight head-first for the upcoming elections. Let's face and defeat competition together with dignity and emerge victorious in these elections. Jai Hind.
#AICCmeet to begin shortly at Delhi's Talkatora stadium with Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi hoisting the national flag.
— INC India (@INCIndia) January 17, 2014
* Senior leaders have started arriving for the session, now expected to start in 15 minutes. Delegates, dejected about Rahul not being announced as the prime ministerial candidate, feel this will be a lacklustre session.
* Sandesh, Congress mouthpiece, distributed at the session describes Rahul as 'aam aadmi ka sipahi,' who involved youth in the implementation of government policies. Paper says Congress has shifted focus from caste-based politics to development issues. Paper also says that bringing Dalits under the party's fold is still a challenge.
* On the podium are CWC members, state unit chiefs and chief ministers, AICC members are on chairs while district presidents and special invitees are in the stadium stands. Mediapersons unhappy with chairs reserved for them after two journalists slipped off their seats. The chairs were installed for the 2010 Commonwealth Games
* Among the delegates who have arrived at the stadium are Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand chief ministers Virbhadra Singh and Vijay Bahuguna respectively.
* Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is expected to unveil the party's poll strategy for the 2014 general elections at today's All India Congress Committee meet at the talkatora Stadium in the capital. Yesterday, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) said that the party does not have a tradition of announcing a PM candidate, but that Rahul would lead the election campaign.
* Congress President Sonia Gandhi to speak shortly at the AICC meet.
* Youth Congress to demand a rethink on the decision and ask for Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate of the party.
* Delhi Congress Committee Chief Arvinder Singh Lovely said that the party was not disappointed. "We will continue to fight the elections under Rahul Gandhi. We have never had a tradition of naming prime ministerial nominee. I have my sympathies with the BJP. There are too many people waiting to be the PMs in their party," he said.