JAIPUR, India: An official of India’s governing Congress party says Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has been elevated to the party’s No. 2 position as it prepares for parliamentary elections next year.
Janardhan Dwivedy, a party spokesman, says Gandhi will be party vice president, a position behind his mother Sonia Gandhi, who is the Congress party president.
The decision was made yesterday at a meeting of the party’s top policy making body in the western Indian city of Jaipur.
Leaders of the ruling Congress party yesterday clamored for Gandhi to be named the prime ministerial candidate ahead of next year’s polls.
Gandhi, 42, has preferred to take a back seat in the party’s politics until now, concentrating instead on leading the Congress youth wing into the general elections due in 2014.
But Oil Minister Veerappa Moily hailed Gandhi as the country’s leader for the “present and for the future” at a meeting of the party in the tourist city of Jaipur in northern India aimed at brainstorming for the 2014 elections.
Another veteran Congress member, Mani Shankar Aiyar, said the party would back Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all led India, should he decide to accept a bigger role.
Sanjay Nirupam, a Congress leader from the western Maharashtra state, also pitched at the meeting for Gandhi to be formally projected as the new leader and provide a fresh momentum to the party’s electoral fortunes.
Gandhi “is our candidate for the post of prime minister after the 2014 elections,” Nirupam told reporters at the weekend meeting where pictures of the young politician were prominently featured.
Calls for Gandhi to take a greater role within the party have become louder in recent months, especially in the wake of reverses suffered by the Congress-led government in some of its traditional strongholds.
Congress, India’s oldest political party, was routed in polls in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Goa last year.
Manmohan Singh, the 80-year-old current prime minister, has been buffeted by falling economic growth and a damaging series of corruption scandals.
But Gandhi’s appetite for India’s turbulent political scene has often been questioned by critics due to his refusal to accept repeated requests to take on ministerial responsibilities.