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Rahul Gandhi-as-PM candidate talk gathers steam as AICC sets date for meet

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 - 7:04am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Rattled by the defeats in four state elections, the Congress on Monday announced to hold a one-day session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) here on January 17, to introspect and to prepare a strategy for the Lok Sabha polls. Though, party leaders deny possibility of anointing Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate at the session, speculations are rife that the January 17 session at Delhi could be a repeat of Jaipur brainstorming session held earlier this year. Instead of brainstorming on issues at Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi was named as the vice-president of the party.

A top party leader told dna that such decisions are never taken in the AICC sessions as they are the prerogative of the party president or the Congress Working Committee (CWC). Even though, at the party press briefing, Priya Dutt, who is also secretary of communication department said the party cadres would like Rahul Gandhi be projected actively as the prime ministerial candidate. She later qualified the statement saying it was her view.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi also stressed that it was a routine session that was due since the last AICC meeting was held in Jaipur in January. The party constitution requires at least one AICC session in a year. Dwivedi said the CWC was yet to set the agenda for the AICC session and hence he dubbed speculation of Rahul’s projection as prime ministerial candidate baseless.

The session, however, has acquired significance since it is being held against the backdrop of poll defeats. Party sources said as many as five general secretaries and a large section of senior party leaders have expressed concern over the style of functioning of Rahul. They feel this style could land them in trouble in the Lok Sabha polls. Even though nobody has yet come out in open, there is possibility that Rahul’s “opponents” may seize the opportunity at the session to express their anger and frustration at his failure to effectively counter the emergence of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

After the poll debacle, Sonia had called for introspection and the need for communicating directly with people. Sources said the AICC session will give an opportunity to the ordinary members to speak about grassroots situation.

The AICC session may also discuss the issue of allies leaving UPA, the latest blow coming from DMK chief M Karunanidhi who declared that his party will not have a tie-up with Congress for next general elections. Earlier Trinamool Congress (TMC) walked away from the UPA.

A high-level committee of the Congress headed by defence minister AK Antony, has so far steered clear of the task at hand to pick up alliance partners for the polls, but it will have to take the hard decision in the coming days in Bihar, where talks at one stage were to rope in the Janata Dal(United) of Nitish Kumar since the chief minister parted ways with the BJP on the issue of Narendra Modi.

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