In a move signalling his larger role in the party, Rahul Gandhi was today named head of the Congress coordinaton committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Senior leaders Ahmed Patel, Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijay Singh, Madhusudan Mistry and Jairam Ramesh are the members of the committee headed by Gandhi, Congress general secretary Dwivedi announced.
Dwivedi also announced the setting up of three sub-groups, including one on the key issue of pre-poll alliances, which will be headed by senior leader AK Antony.
Antony, the defence minister, is also chairing the sub-group on the party manifesto and government programmes while Digvijay Singh heads the communication and publicity sub-group.
"As announced by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the Sanvad Baithak at Surajkund, she has constituted an election coordination committee and three sub-groups keeping in view the Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2014," Dwivedi, who chairs the Congress media cell, said.
The move to make the 42-year-old Rahul Gandhi head of the election coordination committee is indicative of his growing profile in the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election and is being seen as a precursor to his projection as the party's face in the electoral battle.
The other members of the pre-poll-alliances sub-group are M Veerappa Moily, Mukul Wasnik, Suresh Pachouri, Jitendra Singh and Mohan Prakash.
The manifesto and government programmes sub-group, also headed by Antony, has P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde, Anand Sharma, Salman Khurshid, Sandeep Dikshit, Ajit Jogi, Renuka Chowdhury and PL Punia as members. The committee also has Mohan Gopal, who is an expert, as special invitee.
The communications and publicity sub-group, chaired by Digvijay Singh, has former information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni, her successor Manish Tewari, Deepender Hooda, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rajiv Shukla and Bhakta Charan Das as members.
Announcing the setting up of a coordination group and sub-groups with specific tasks at the party's Samvad Baithak on November 9 at Surajkund, Sonia Gandhi had said that "with a year and half left for the Lok Sabha elections, both party and government will have to work cohesively together to ensure that we secure a renewed mandate".
The announcement came days after it became known that the party's Chintan Shivir was likely to be held at Jaipur in mid-January where the issues of alliances and the strategy for the 2014 polls are expected to be debated.
With the result of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections due to be declared by the year-end, next year will witness a series of assembly polls, including in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
A reshuffle of the All-India Congress Committee secretariat is likely within a week, which could also see the announcement of a new designation for Rahul Gandhi who is already considered number 2 in the party.
At the day-long Surajkund meeting, Sonia Gandhi had made it clear that there was need for better coordination and understanding between the party and the government. Concerned about the adverse political fallout of economic reform measures and a series of scams, she had asked the party and the government to pull up their socks to get a renewed mandate at the next general election.
The government was given a clear message by Gandhi that it is the party that brings it to power and those in government should understand the difficulties of the organisation.
The meeting had also reviewed the implementation of promises made in the manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Speaking at the meeting, Antony was learnt to have stressed that the party should not be seen to be drifting away from its 'aam aadmi' plank.
Digvijay Singh had raised concerns over lack of the party's presence in the new media while a number of leaders, including Manish Tewari, had talked about the need to aggressively counter the negative campaign against the government in all media.
Both Singh and Tewari have been given responsibilities in the communications and publicity sub-group. Singh is also a member of the coordination committee headed by Rahul Gandhi.