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Congress decides to put Rahul Gandhi in the front, facade intact

While the Congress keeps the country guessing about its prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections, the party is quietly preparing to project Rahul Gandhi as its candidate for the top job.

Related: Modi vs Rahul fight gets real

The party’s election coordination committee has held several rounds of deliberations on how to project this change — from Manmohan Singh to Rahul — without making any formal declaration. To this end, plans are afoot to organise public meetings and rallies by Rahul across the country, starting with around 25 state capitals. Related: Manmohan roots for Rahul as PM candidate

While the party is wary of pitting Rahul against the BJP’s chief campaigner, Narendra Modi — lest it turn into a personality clash — the Congress vice-president’s tours would send out a clear message to the voters, believes the party. The Congress hopes to avoid any confusion on the issue, which could affect its electoral prospects.

Sources said Rahul will also be meeting the media shortly in Delhi to explain his position on issues, to counter the image that he skirts them.

Typically, Congress leaders point to straws in the wing. “After the flag-hoisting ceremony at Congress headquarters on Independence Day, when reporters asked Sonia whether Manmohan Singh would hoist the flag from the Red Fort next year again, she paused, and walked away without responding,” said a party leader.

A Congress functionary claimed the signature song of a recent government publicity blitzkrieg — “meelon hum aa gaye, meelon hamein jaana hai (We have covered miles, we have miles to go)” — has also been conceptualised to convey this transition.

Asked about the general impression of Rahul being reluctant to become PM, a party strategist said, “As far as we know reluctance (for the top job) and such active involvement (in preparations for elections) do not go together.”

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