In signals that he could well be the next Prime Ministerial candidate, Congress today declared that Rahul Gandhi will lead UPA's campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and take up an "important responsibility" in the party very soon.
Congress spokesperson PC Chacko appeared confident a third term for the UPA with the party planning to go for both ties-ups before and after the polls in a big way. To a specific question whether Mr Gandhi will be projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the polls, he said that issue will come up after the elections and it was for party MPs to decide.
He also added that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be at the helm till 2014. "This has no relation. He is the Prime Minister. This government will continue till 2014. He is the Prime Minister till 2014," Mr Chacko said when asked about Mr Singh's fate if Mr Gandhi is to be projected in the next elections.
He also hinted that Rahul Gandhi may also replace his mother Sonia as the party president. "She is the President now. She will be the patron. She will be the supreme leader of the party," he said.
Mr Chacko said that Mr Gandhi has agreed to assume more responsibilities following "overwhelming" demand by the party men.
"The party is overwhelmingly in favour of Rahul Gandhi taking a larger responsibility. He was not very willing. Now he has agreed to it. He will lead UPA's election campaign for 2014," he said.
Addressing a public meeting in Vadodara, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had said yesterday, "Congress is clear on the suitability and capability of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi for the post of Prime Minister. Senior and young party leaders have been projecting him for this post".
In a departure from the go-it alone theory propounded by some in the party in the past, Mr Chacko said, "We recognise the necessity of coalition politics".
A party functionary, not willing to be named, said, "We will focus on pre-poll and post-poll allies. We are recognising the reality of coalition politics in India. We cannot be unrealistic."
The assertions by party leaders come at a time when there is talk of formation of a non-Congress non-BJP formation in the political arena.
"We are recognising the reality of coalition politics in India," a leader said adding to the growing feeling in the party in favour of strong alliances.
Rahul Gandhi himself was one of the main factors the party's decision to go it alone in the Assembly elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and suffered badly.
The party has already set up a Committee headed by Mr Gandhi for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. One of the sub-committees set up is look for pre-poll alliances.
To a question whether Mr Gandhi will lead Congress campaign or UPA's election campaign, the leader said that election will be fought on UPA platform and not on Congress platform.
The assertions by party leaders have come ahead of Congress' Chintan Baithak
to be organised in Jaipur in January, where the party is likely to take close look on the issue of alliances.