New Delhi :Indian newspapers on Sunday trumpeted the elevation of Rahul Gandhi to second-in-command of the ruling Congress party and predicted a showdown for the position of prime minister with opposition rival Narendra Modi in 2014 polls.
“Party finally crowns prince,” headlined the English-language tabloid Mail Today over a full-page spread that featured a smiling picture of the 42-year-old.
The son, grandson and great-grandson of Indian prime ministers is now second in the party’s hierarchy after his mother, party president Sonia Gandhi, who led the party to back-to-back victories in the 2004 and 2009 polls.
The move indicated that the Congress party was “not averse to pitting him against Narendra Modi and fielding him as its prime ministerial candidate,” the Mail said.
“The party, it is evident, now feels that it will be in an advantageous position... in case of such a battle.”
Gandhi was on Saturday formally named as the vice-president of the party, propelling his long-anticipated accession to power and paving the way for him to lead the party in general elections next year.
The Times of India said the stage had been set for a possible showdown between Gandhi and Modi, a hardline leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who is widely expected to run for prime minister in 2014.
“As number two in the Congress, he has been, for all practical purposes, pitched as the prime minister candidate of the party... thus setting the stage for a showdown with the Gujarat strongman,” it said referring to Modi.
The BJP — which is the main opposition party in parliament — is yet to name a candidate to take on the Congress-led alliance but clamour is growing for Modi to be pitched for prime ministership after he won key state polls last year.
The Hindustan Times said the Congress had stopped short of naming Gandhi as the candidate for the country’s top job “perhaps out of consideration for its sitting octogenarian PM Manmohan Singh”.
In a front-page report headlined “Congress sends 2014 signal by elevating Rahul to number 2”, the daily also said the move to elevate Gandhi was in line with Congress’s shift of focus to the youth and the middle class.
In the Hindi-language media, the daily Navbharat Times headline read “Rahul vs Modi?” while the Dainik Jagran talked about the new roles and responsibilities that awaited.