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Rahul gears up to face Modi challenge

Congress party deliberates strategy for 2014 general elections

Gulf News

New Delhi: India’s ruling Congress party is bracing itself for the reality test next year when its newly elevated vice-president Rahul Gandhi may be pitted against the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in order to emerge the next prime minister.

Rahul, son of the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, is tipped to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The Congress party has already made a move in that direction by first appointing Rahul as chairman of its election coordination committee followed by his promotion last month as the new vice-president, making his virtual number two behind mother Sonia in the party.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is under tremendous pressure from within and various Hindu organisations to name Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for what could turn out to be a mouth-watering contest next year.

The newly elected BJP president Rajnath Singh is, however, expected to name Modi as the chairman of its election coordination committee when he names his new set of office bearers later this month, putting him on a par with Rahul Gandhi, while a formal announcement about his prime ministerial candidature may come towards the end of this year.

The Congress party’s election coordination committee met last weekend to discuss the possible scenario and formulate a strategy to take on the Modi challenge.

The meeting, chaired by Rahul, was attended by Sonia’s political secretary Ahmad Patel, general secretaries Janardhan Dwivedi and Digvijay Singh and federal minister Jairam Ramesh — considered a master strategist — and some invitees.

While Congress leaders are tightlipped about the details of the discussion, it is understood that they deliberated the twin threats they may face in the next general elections which is barely 14 months away.

The twin threats, according to a senior central office bearer of the Congress party, include the development and reforms plank that Modi carries due to his stupendous work as the Gujarat chief minister during the past 12 years and attempts to galvanise pro-Hindu voters.

Several sister organisations of BJP have used the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad to revive demand of building a grand Hindu temple in place of the demolished Babari Masjid (mosque) at Ayodhya.

It is seen as part of a grand plan of the rightwing outfits to pin the Congress party down.

Congress party’s hopes of retaining power for the third consecutive term rests on Rahul Gandhi due to his charm among young voters who constitute the majority of voters.