New Delhi: The Congress has reacted with predictably intemperate excitement and enthusiasm to Rahul Gandhi being made the captain of its campaign for the 2014 elections, when the party will ask voters for a third shot at government.
"It's quite clear now who is our commander and sipah salaar in the fight that lies ahead...whose footsteps are we going to follow," said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who has been accused by critics of unabated sycophancy, thanks largely due to declarations like this one and an earlier commitment that he was ready to give his life for Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Mr Khurshid confirmed that the excitement was universal in the Congress. "You know the party is very excited; it has been demanding that apart from the work he has been doing with party youth and the support he is providing to Soniaji, he should now take charge", the senior Cabinet minister said.
Last evening, the Congress announced that Mr Gandhi, who is 42, will head its coordination committee for the Lok Sabha elections, and for eight states that will vote before or with the general elections.
Mr Gandhi will have three sub-committees reporting to him - these groups are assigned to handling alliances, the media campaign, and the party's manifesto.
His own coordination group includes his mother's political advisor Ahmed Patel, General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, trusted advisor Digvijaya Singh and Madhusudhan Mistry.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh hinted yesterday that an official elevation for Rahul Gandhi within the Congress was also still a possibility, saying an All India Congress Committee (AICC) reshuffle was on the cards. But he stopped short of committing that Rahul Gandhi's new assignment meant he would likely be the Congress' candidate for Prime Minister in 2014. Mr Singh would only say, "it is too soon but you can't rule out anything in politics".
Mr Singh finds a place in Mr Gandhi's crucial core team announced yesterday; earlier this year he had charge of the Congress' campaign in Uttar Pradesh, an effort that delivered disastrous results for the party. Mr Gandhi led his party in the UP elections and the Congress placed a low fourth, despite his tenacious campaign. The ignominy was underscored by the fact that it was another young politician, Akhilesh Yadav, who won the state overwhelmingly for the Samajwadi Party, which provides external support to the Congress-led government at the Centre.