'Rahul, Rahul', clamour at Congress conclave

The two-day 'chintan shivir' or brainstorming session of the Indian National Congress ended today with one factor standing up as clear as a doorpost – virtually every leader wants Rahul Gandhi, son of party president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister the late Rajiv Gandhi, to be projected as the party's candidate for prime minister in the 2014 general election.

There were of course discussions on other issues - about 350 participants at the 'shivir' earlier deliberated in five groups on political challenges, socio-economic concerns, discrimination against and atrocities on women and children, India's changing role in the world, and the party organisation.

Conflicting views on alliances, including the demand for the Congress to go solo in some states, and a review of the decision to loosen the government's control of diesel prices were among the issues discussed.

But what emerged most prominently at the end of the session was the deep and well-known sycophancy of the party to its ruling family, with virtually every participant clamouring that the Gandhi scion be given a more high-profile role in the party and the government.

At the end of the conclave, several union ministers, chief ministers and party leaders told various sections of the media that an announcement about a new role for Rahul could be announced as soon as Sunday, when the All India Congress Committee will hold a special session that will exclude the rank and file.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said that announcement of Rahul's elevation would be made in the next 24 hours.