New Delhi: Will it be party, government or both for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in his enhanced role ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election? No answers yet to that most asked question but most Congress members say they want him to enter the government and also play a more central role in the party.
There is a sense of anticipation in India`s oldest party since Rahul Gandhi announced he was ready to play a more proactive role in both the party and the government.
Congress members at various levels told IANS that they wanted Rahul Gandhi, 42, in the government to hone his administrative skills and also assume a more enhanced role in the party. But many of them refused to be quoted considering the sensitivity of the issue.
A Congress member said the party scion joining the Manmohan Singh government will spur it into taking faster decisions and improve its image.
"The party has to be on board on many decisions. The process is time-consuming. With Rahulji in the cabinet, his view will be taken as the party`s view. Decisions will be quicker," the office-bearer, who did not want to be quoted, told IANS.
Son of Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi came into electoral politics in 2004. He was appointed a general secretary in 2007 and given charge of the Youth Congress and the NSUI.
The younger Gandhi now represents Amethi, formerly his mother`s constituency, in parliament. (Sonia Gandhi has shifted to Rae Bareli.)
Rahul Gandhi`s participation in the government would enable him to take a closer look at the inner dynamics of a coalition government, say many.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh has suggested that the young leader should take on bigger responsibility in the party and indicated that this would come about by September.
Party leaders feel that Rahul Gandhi should go beyond his present role in the frontal organisations and take a role in the party`s mainstream. Many party functionaries insisted that a bigger role for Rahul Gandhi was the best hope for the Congress, whose influence across the country has rapidly shrunk in recent years.
Ranoj Basu, a permanent secretary in the Congress, told IANS: "This is the right time for him to take a greater role in the party and the government."
Another leader, who did not want to be quoted, said Rahul Gandhi`s more active involvement would help the party. "He has to be inducted as number one (in the future)... He is the only hope."
Law Minister Salman Khurshid stunned everyone last month when he said the party had seen only cameos of thoughts from Rahul Gandhi and was waiting for a new ideological direction from him.
Ten Congress MPs have urged Sonia Gandhi to make her son the leader of the house in the Lok Sabha in succession to Pranab Mukherjee, now the country`s president.
Congress Seva Dal chief Mahendra Joshi said Rahul Gandhi should work both in the party and the government as "both will be strengthened by his work".
He rejected criticism that the Nehru-Gandhi family scion had failed to deliver in recent state elections.
"The leader can motivate you. If there is electoral failure, party men at all levels should think about their responsibility," he said.
Youth Congress chief Rajiv Satav said Rahul Gandhi had transformed the organisation into one that is democratic, performance driven and has greater rural orientation. "Senior Congress" will benefit from the experience, he believes.
"Today, there is no state where we do not have an elected organisation. There are over five lakh elected office bearers," Satav told IANS.
But Gandhi, who is perceived to be the party`s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 elections, is unlikely to find the going easy in his task to transform the fortunes of the Congress, given the central government`s credibility deficit over corruption and poor economic growth.
The party faces major problems in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
"It will be very tough (for Rahul)," a party functionary admitted. He felt a section of the old guard would not like Rahul Gandhi to succeed as it will change the status quo.
Rahul Gandhi`s critics in the opposition have sought to raise questions over his leadership ability by pointing to his limited interventions in parliament and his perceived shy nature but Congressmen say their leader has his own way of working.
"He is hardworking, analytical and humble," a party leader said.