After the cabinet reshuffle, which the Prime Minister described as "hopefully the last" before India votes, the Congress is now working on a revamp within. While the government will focus on defeating criticism of an ageing administration unable or unwilling to cleanse itself of corruption, the party will construct a strategy to convince voters to give it a third consecutive term.
Ahead of a Congress rally in Delhi on Sunday to be addressed by the party's A-list including the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi, the question is whether Rahul Gandhi, who is scheduled to make a rare speech at Delhi's Ram Lila ground, will by then have accepted "the larger role" that his party has been pleading for over the last few months.
On Friday, many within his party expect Mr Gandhi, age 42, to be conferred with the title of either Secretary General or less likely, Working President. Mr Gandhi is currently one of the party's several General Secretaries, whose role is to take charge of states and other functions for the party. As Secretary General, he would be their boss, formally.
"I am not aware of a definite date and time," Congress spokesperson
Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters when asked about Mr Gandhi's promotion. However, Mr Dwivedi added, "Gandhi is number-2 in
the party. His place is after the Congress President. It is not a
hidden fact. There is no ambiguity about it. Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh has said that he (Rahul) is the future leader. There is no shying
away from it."
Given that his mother is the party president, sources say the Gandhis may avoid the Working President designation for Rahul - the party is repeatedly criticised for bowing to its First Family, which gets away, according to the opposition BJP, with the vertiginous privilege of great power without accountability.
Sources in the Congress say the reorganisation may include other changes in the party. But any changes will be over-shadowed by the attention on whether Mr Gandhi's career path takes a new turn.
This weekend, he turned down another request to join government. Though he didn't join the cabinet - the Prime Minister said he was "deeply disappointed" by this - he is widely seen as the auteur of the exercise. Younger Congress leaders loyal to him like Sachin Pilot and Jyotiradtiya Scindia moved up, and the average age of the cabinet was reduced from 62 to 58.6.
Senior party leaders have had little hesitation in going public with the general belief in the Congress that Mr Gandhi is a future Prime Minister of India and shall take that post as early as in 2014 if the Congress retains power. Some ministers had suggested that Dr Manmohan Singh would step aside if Mr Gandhi wanted to take over in this term, a possibility dismissed by his mother.
So far, Mr Gandhi has devoted considerable time to recruiting youth workers for the Congress, vowing to introduce a system that rewards merit rather than political lineage. He often tells youth workers that while his family has allowed him top-level entry, he envisages an environment that nurtures ability. Critics point out the unlikelihood of that permeating the Congress, well known for its unabashed sycophancy, with ministers publicly declaring their loyalty to the Gandhis. On Sunday, many of the ministers sworn in thanked not just the Prime Minister but Mrs Gandhi and her son for giving them a chance.
Mr Gandhi's own political skills are dismissed as a figment of his party's imagination by the opposition BJP. More generous critics say his credentials remain unestablished. He campaigned heavily in Bihar in 2010 for the Assembly elections, but the Congress did worse than it had in the previous election without him.
The Bihar exercise came after the Congress performed the best that it had in years in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh; Mr Gandhi got the credit for taking the party's tally up from merely nine seats in 2004 to a respectable 20 in 2009.
But this year, he was at the centre of an abysmal defeat. When Uttar Pradesh voted for its government, it turned enthusiastically to another young leader, 39-year-old Akhilesh Yadav, whose father Mulayam Singh heads the Samajwadi Party.
Before that, nights were spent at the homes of Dalit families with Mr Gandhi often eating with his hands, seated on a charpai or cot. Cameras followed him everywhere. Other parties accused him of gimmickry; he said he didn't care. He then conducted a padayatra - a march - through a series of villages in solidarity with farmers whose land had been acquired by the government for public projects, and was later sold at huge margins to commercial real estate developers. His entry on the pillion of a motorcycle into a village sealed off by the police made headlines.
But when UP voted in February this year, the Congress barely made a dent, placing it an embarrassing fourth. Senior leaders from his party said they were to blame for organizational issues and selecting poor candidates. Mr Gandhi, however, said he accepted the blame and would learn from his defeat.
In the constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareilly, the parliamentary constituencies for Mr Gandhi and his mother, the Congress lost eight of the ten assembly seats.
(With inputs from PTI)