It's Rahul Gandhi all the way for Congress

Rahul GandhiRahul Gandhi was officially declared the vice president of the Indian National Congress at its two-day conclave that ended late on Saturday.

The official promotion of the son the of party president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister the late Rajiv Gandhi to a post that he has long held unofficially was perhaps the only tangible outcome of the 'chintan shivir' or brainstorming session of the Congress.

It is no secret that the Congress has been largely controlled by the Nehru-Gandhi family since Independence.

Indira Gandhi, Rahul's grandmother, gained and consolidated control of the Congress after her father Jawaharlal Nehru's death, displaying a mastery of the Indian political system that none has matched.

Many observers feel that Rahul's personal proclivities have prevented him from taking on the mantle of the official face of the Congress. But with virtually every party leader clamouring for him to be the next face of the Congress after his Italian expatriate mother Sonia and 81-year old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he has been forced into a corner.

At the end of the Congress conclave, several union cabinet ministers, chief ministers and top party leaders told the media that a new role for Rahul was certain.

A separate All India Congress Committee session is on at the time of writing. It may get clearer today if Rahul will be projected as the United Progressive Alliance's next candidate for prime minister.

In that case, he would more likely than not have to contend with Narendra Modi, the business-oriented chief minister of Gujarat who looks the most likely candidate of the Bharatiya Janata party-led National Democratic Alliance.

While the Congress is gung-ho about Rahul's leadership, political observers are more sceptical – they point out that the Congress, under his unofficial leadership, has hardly won a state election or parliamentary by-election in the last three years.

It is to be seen whether Rahul will suddenly gain the political nous of his grandmother or the experience of his mother to transform his party's dwindling fortunes.