Rahul Gandhi is Congress no 2, will be party's face in 2014

Jaipur, Jan 19 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi was Saturday named the Congress vice president, making him officially the number two in the party after his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi told reporters that the decision to elevate Rahul Gandhi was taken by the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision making body, at the 'Chintan Shivir' at the Birla auditorium here.

"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 supporters also demanded that Rahul Gandhi be named the Congress' prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rahul Gandhi heads the coordination panel for the elections.

"This decision will greatly strengthen the party and the hands of the Congress president," Dwivedi said.

Rahul Gandhi's name was proposed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony and seconded by Dwivedi. Congress president Sonia Gandhi nodded in assent.

"The whole working committee appreciated the proposal with clapping on the tables and after their support the Congress president gave a nod and Rahul Gandhi accepted the post," said Dwivedi.

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

"The party has reposed its confidence in its most effective and accepted young leader, reflecting the strong feelings of the millions of Congress workers," Dwivedi said.

"Any election or campaign-related decision will be taken at a later stage," he added.

Rahul Gandhi's role in the coming elections will be decided by the party later, he added.

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

Congress leaders, especially Rahul Gandhi's young brigade, wholeheartedly welcomed the move.

"He will try and live up to the expectations of a new India," said Minister of State for Human Resource Development Jitin Prasada.

Terming Rahul Gandhi's new post as a "game changer" for the Congress, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said he has "brought about new thinking in the party" and his appointment reflects the demographics of a young India.

Asked whether Rahul Gandhi would be pitted against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, 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.

However, he added that Rahul Gandhi would "definitely be the face of the Congress" in 2014 and the party would choose its prime minister after coming to power.

"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.

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