Congress connects to young India, Rahul Gandhi is party's face for 2014

Jaipur, Jan 19 (IANS) In a clear message of the party's generational shift with 70 percent of voters below the age of 35, the Congress Saturday named Rahul Gandhi, 42, as vice president in the hope of reaping electoral dividends in the 2014 general elections.

However, the Congress for the time being. refrained from projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate, ignoring the huge chorus from the party. Party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said: "Whether Rahul will lead the party in 2014 general elections will be decided later."

Rahul Gandhi heads the party's coordination panel for the 2014 polls.

The new post of vice president was re-created especially for Rahul Gandhi. The last vice president was Arjun Singh when Rahul's father Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister and party chief.

After the Congress Working Committee (CWC) passed a resolution unanimously elevating him as vice president, Rahul Gandhi expressed his gratitude to the leaders and thanked them. "I am confident we can transform the Congress party," he said.

Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh termed the move a "game changer" and said Rahul Gandhi is the party's face for 2014.

Highways Minister C.P. Joshi hailed the move as representing "new leadership for the new India", while Youth Congress chief Rajeev Satav said it was a "historic day and would bring joy to the young friends of the party".

"This will be remembered as the real Jaipur Declaration much over the formal document to be adopted by the All India Congress Committee on Jan 20," quipped another minister.

Much before Dwivedi announced the CWC decision, hundreds of elated Youth Congress members started celebrations outside the Birla auditorium, venue of the "Chintan Shivir" and also outside 10 Janpath, the residence of party chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

Party insiders said Rahul became the youngest vice president after Jitendra Prasada, who got the position at 50 plus age.

Prasada's son Jitin is Minister of State for Human Resource Development and a member of Rahul's team.

"He will try and live up to the expectations of a new India," said Jitin Prasada.

Joshi said Rahul has already democratised the party' youth wings ending a culture of patronage.

The new leader will make his own team now, he said.

Party insiders said this would mean more younger leaders will get important roles in the organizational reshuffle, which is likely to follow soon marking the generational shift.

In the last cabinet reshuffle Oct 28, 2012, Rahul's influence was clear when he suggested for promotion many younger leaders, including Prasada, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari.

A pointer to Rahul's elevation as official number two came when party leaders and ministers competed with each other in demanding a bigger role for him at the introspection meet.

The largest ever presence of over 130 Youth Congress and NSUI members out of the 350 delegates at the strategy session was also at his behest.

The decision approved by the CWC, the party's highest decision making body, makes him officially the number two in the party after his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

"With his appointment as vice president of the Congress party today, Rahul Gandhi has been elevated to number two position in the party," Dwivedi told reporters, amid scenes of wild jubilation by Congress workers and supporters.

"The decision will greatly strengthen the party and the hands of the Congress president."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among the first to offer Rahul Gandhi a bouquet. Thereafter, a host of leaders lined up to offer him bouquets and garland him.

As soon as the announcement was made, supporters cheered and danced to drum beats, waving posters of Rahul Gandhi. The city sky was lit up with sparkling pyrotechnic fireworks.

Asked whether Rahul Gandhi would be pitted against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, R.P.N. Singh said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had not as yet decided on its prime ministerial candidate. Modi is being touted as the BJP's frontrunner for the top post.

"When he is the face of the Congress party, when we come back to power in UPA-III we will support him (as PM)."

Party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said Rahul Gandhi will be the "chief campaigner" for the elections, but the "high command" will take a final decision on his prime ministerial candidature.

The BJP termed the decision a "mere eyewash".

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: "After hearing the announcement, I felt very amazed that a member of the same family is getting a post in the same party..It is something hilarious."

The Samajwadi Party's Ram Lakhan Yadav said Rahul's elevation was an internal organizational matter of the Congress. "But at the same time the decision to appoint him as vice president is more of a formality.. people know that most major decisions of Congress had Rahul's stamp of approval."

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Mitchell Johnson keen to prolong Test career

Mitchell Johnson keen to prolong Test career

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

There's a lot going on, I won't lie: Stephen Fleming

There's a lot going on, I won't lie: Stephen Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif didn't want to work with tainted players

Latif didn't want to work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

'I am always nervous before the first match'

'I am always nervous before the first match'

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

A fractured little finger could now throw the Delhi Daredevils captain out of action at the start of this season. More »

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Bench refuses to grant access to recordings of Srini and Dhoni’s depositions before Mudgal committee. More »

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

Key players are away preparing for the IPL, taking the shine off the other domestic T20 fixture. (CYCSPL) More »

IPL’s credibility needs rebuilding

IPL’s credibility needs rebuilding

Players, coaches, team management and franchises would do well to realise that the seventh edition of the IPL is under intense scrutiny and credibility… More »