New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi's sudden sabbatical to reflect upon the future course of the party may be a prelude to his elevation as Congress president.
There are indications that Gandhi, who is currently the Vice President, could be made the party chief later this year as the tenure of Congress President Sonia Gandhi comes to an end in September.
While it is not clear whether the elevation could happen at the AICC session itself, which is expected to be held in the first week of April, top party sources do not discount the possibility of the Congress Vice President taking over as the party chief finally this year.
Sonia Gandhi has been the longest-serving Congress President since 1998, when she took over the reins of the party from Sitaram Kesri.
While Congress under her leadership lost to BJP-led NDA in 1999 general elections, it catapulted to power in 2004 forming an umbrella coalition of UPA.
Rahul Gandhi was elevated from the post of General Secretary to Vice President in a Chintan Shivir in Jaipur in January 2013. He was made the virtual face of the Congress in 2014 Lok Sabha polls by being anointed chief of the campaign committee.
Despite defeats before and after he became party Vice President, Gandhi is considered the natural choice because he belongs to the party's first family.
As speculation gained ground, top leaders remained tight lipped. "Wait for a day or two. Nothing is decided as yet. But I cannot rule out anything. Ultimately a final decision has to be taken," said a senior party functionary when asked about Gandhi's possible elevation as Congress President at the AICC session.
Gandhi's sudden sabbatical is also being linked with his exasperation at not being able to see some of his decisions being fully implemented. Sources close to him maintain that it is misnomer that he gets done everything what he wants in the party.
Difference between the style of functioning of Gandhi and the old guards have come to fore many a time. A few months ago for the first time in the history of Congress, some young AICC general secretaries, protested publicly against some comments made by seniors while Gandhi's associates drew the ire of some senior leaders, which was interpreted as a veiled attack on the functioning of the Congress Vice President.
A meeting of the party's apex decision making body Congress Working Committee will be held to finalise the agenda of the AICC session.
"Much depends on what happens in the CWC," said a source when asked about Gandhi's possible elevation.
Even in Jaipur, Gandhi's elevation as party Vice President was okayed unanimously at a meeting of CWC.
Gandhi is considered a reluctant politician, who believed power to be "poison", and people close to him in the party believe that it's time he takes full control of the party shedding the image of a reluctant politician.