To take on Modi party seeks to attract youth and middle class to counter BJP star
Bhavdeep Kang | January 19, 2013
The hotly anticipated gladiatorial contest between Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi and the BJP's Narendra Modi -- whehter or not their respective parties name them as prime ministerial candidates -- came one step closer to reality as the former became the vice president of his party during its chintan shivir in Jaipur on Saturday.
The "elevation" came after a day long, well orchestrated campaign starting with informal press briefings by minister Rajiv Shukla as well as IYC and NSUI delegates on the demand for Rahul taking on a pivotal role in the party and ended with a burst of firecrackers, wild celebrations and a “Rahul rath yatra" at the shivir venue.
Whether or not Rahul will be a change agent remains to be seen, but the party is waiting eagerly to hear from him on Sunday, at the AICC session. Earlier in the day, he attended all the five sessions at the shivir turn by turn. He spoke to the delegates and interacted freely.
Later, at the meeting between the Congress president, the PM and Rahul with the committee chairman, he intervened to say that he felt the AICC was currently not a representative body and that it needed to be recast to reflect every demographic.
Rahul's elevation was proposed by the Congress number two, defence minister AK Antony, an indication that he will not just be the face of the 2014 campaign but may also be the candidate for the post of PM rather than finding a proxy - a post his mother declined nine years ago.
Rahul's elevation also explains the Congress's newound concern for the youth - 40 percent of the nation is under 30, the Congress leaders pointed out - and for the middle class. The latter is believed to be a fickle constituency which, disenchanted with Manmohan Singh, may well opt for Modi.
In the BJP, meanwhile, uncertainty continues to prevail, with the RSS yet to indicate if and when Modi would be allowed to take on the mantel of the top contender. While his elevation is considered to be as inevitable as that of Rahul, the timing is still not clear. Changes within the RSS top hierarchy are expected shortly which would have a bearing on the BJP leadership issue.
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