Even within the Congress Party the chorus has been growing louder for declaration of Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate and if Congress eventually succumbs to the pressure and declare the Congress Vice President as their trump card then it would be a major shift in the conventional approach of the party which had never in the past ever declared a prime ministerial candidate before election.
Declaring Rahul as PM man will mark a change in Congress's conventional style
However, the election of 2014 is not like any other election. It is perhaps going to be the most competitive and a near presidential kind of election with NDA prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi having already launched a massive nationwide campaign and has already been declared by most surveys as the most popular leader who can catapult NDA to power again.
Most opinion polls have also shown a significant surge in the popularity of NDA resulting in its emergence as the single largest group and BJP emerging as the single largest party in the forthcoming election. If there was any doubt left, then the results of the December elections in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where BJP emerged as clear winner to form government and in Delhi where it emerged as the single largest party and the massive response to Modi's rallies in each of these states, cleared all the doubts about his unchallenged position not just in the party but also his increasing popularity and acceptance across the spectrum of electorate.
Against this backdrop, a beleaguered Congress, which some opinion polls have suggested would see a massive decline in vote share and seats, already on the back foot with a series of allegations of scams and failure to contain inflation, literally needs a miracle to see any revival of fortune. Therefore, keeping this in mind, the possibility of Rahul being declared as a Prime Ministerial candidate to boost the morale of Congress party workers and to contain the massive factionalism within the party remains very high.
However, even while Modi's trailblazing campaign and resurgence of BJP continue to be headache for Congress, the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal gradually becoming the talking point for the urban electorate might also be a big concern for Congress. Therefore, even though there may be pitfalls in naming Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate and directly pitching him against a hugely popular and charismatic Modi, at least for the sake of not letting Kejriwal relegating Rahul Gandhi as the third option, it has become imperative for Congress to name Rahul Gandhi as their chosen one. Any further delay may cost Congress even more dearly.
With Kejriwal scoring some brownie points by doling out freebies to the Delhi electorate after forming government and at the same time not sparing any opportunity to berate Congress, in spite of running the Delhi Government with their support, Congress and especially Rahul Gandhi would have to do some real pulling up of socks to restore confidence of its vote bank.
Close on the heels of serious allegations of graft against the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh as well as sheer reluctance of the Maharashtra Government to take any action against Congress Ministers and party members indicted in the Adarsh case, Congress scion might need to display some exemplary action on the issues of graft emerging now instead of just lip service.
On the flip side, resignation of Manmohan Singh or not giving him a third chance may also be taken up by the opposition as a sign of acceptance by Congress of the dismal performance of the UPA regime marred by a series of corruption and lacklustre governance.
It would not be easy for Congress to defend as to why Manmohan Singh is not the right candidate for the third term and why Rahul Gandhi is coming now and if at all he is coming now then why not earlier and why he has been silent on several issues all through these years. Therefore for Congress, it would be easier to declare Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate, making him Prime Minister might be the more challenging and uphill task.