The Congress has for a long time acknowledged Rahul Gandhi as heir apparent and several party members had openly said that he is their leader. Which means his appointment on Saturday as the party’s vice president — a post just below that of Congress chief and Rahul’s mother Sonia — was in many ways just a matter of finding him a suitable title.
So why should it matter?
One reason for Gandhi’s long-awaited promotion was to energise the party for a round of state elections in the run-up to the national elections in 2014. The Congress remains a party which derives its charisma from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and party workers openly swoon over the family. News of Gandhi’s appointment was greeted with fireworks and proclamations by party leaders of brighter days ahead.
Congress leader RPN Singh said this would be a “game changer” which would infuse “new vigour” in the party.
The focus on Gandhi’s youth — at 42, he’s still young compared to most of India’s politicians — also marks a generational shift in Congress leadership, one that could see younger leaders getting more say in party matters.
“The Congress party will be forward looking, progressive, youth oriented and the participation of young people in the Congress and national politics will increase manifold,” said Sachin Pilot, corporate affairs minister and at 35, one of the party’s young brigade.